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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Oct 07 2019 12:00pm
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Perhaps you're tired of the Tier One vintage decks and want to try something different. Perhaps you specifically want to antagonize all of the Tier One vintage decks.

This experiment all started as a response to the current metagame, picking cards that are most suited to countering the dominant strategies. Consider these three 1998 bangers for instance:

Hidden Guerrillas  Hidden Gibbons  Hidden Herd

(Is anyone still reading?) But before you hit Back on your browser, don't think about how terrible these cards are in other formats. Think about vintage's 9 main decks, and consider how effective each of these are against a good 8 of them.  Guerillas is dead against Dredge, Gibbons is dead against Shops, and Herd is small against Survival, but that's about it. Against everyone else, these three are efficient beaters on par with the format's finest, from Tarmogoyf to Hollow One.

So if we position those as the centerpieces of a stompy deck, what else can we include that hates out as much of the field as possible? It quickly becomes obvious that green and white are the two colors best suited for vintage hate, so let's go there.

Anti Artifacts

Collector Ouphe is the obvious starting place, but I'm actually going to eschew it, and not just because of its price tag. Ouphe discourages the opponent from playing artifacts and therefore animating our Guerillas. Instead of preempting artifacts, let's destroy them afterward with cards like Natural State, Kataki, War's Wage, Phyrexian Revoker, Seeds of Innocence, and newcomer Force of Vigor. One important precept is to vary the CMCs a little. If all you have are Natural States, a single X=1 Chalice of the Void will devastate you. For this reason, I also like Return to Nature, despite looking a little clunky.

I don't recommend Nature's Claim, as the 4 life matters a lot in a Stompy deck. I almost like Knight of Autumn for its versatility but it's probably too slow.

Natural State  Kataki, War's Wage  Seeds of Innocence

Anti Graveyard

White has possibly the best anti-graveyard card of all time in Rest in Peace. There's also Dryad Militant, which obviously doesn't help against Dredge but does against any decks involving Snapcaster Mage or Yawgmoth's Will. Containment Priest does help against Dredge, as well as against Vengevine and even the rare Oath of Druids. It's not as useful against Tinker as it used to be, since people are now getting Bolas's Citadel more often than Blightsteel Colossus, but it's nice to have the option.

Runners up: Scavenging Ooze, Ground Seal, and the typical non-GW candidates Grafdigger's Cage, Tormod's Crypt, and Ravenous Trap.

Dryad Militant  Containment Priest  Ground Seal

Anti Blue

You don't have to splash for Pyroblast to hate on blue. All you have to do is:

  • Take away their multiple draws. Spirit of the Labyrinth does this nicely while still being beating down.
  • Take away their multiple spells. The best option is likely Ethersworn Canonist. Rule of Law is too slow, Deafening Silence lacks a body, and Eidolon of Rhetoric might as well lack a body. Sidebar: Notice how well this and the previous bullet also stop Storm.
  • Take away their counterspells. I can't recommend Cavern of Souls here, since our creatures are of so many different types, and often not even creatures to begin with (reread the three Hidden cards up top), but fortunately green decks don't need the Cavern. We have City of Solitude, Dosan the Falling Leaf, Guttural Response, and now Veil of Summer. Whether City or Dosan is preferable is debatable, but I actually give the slight edge to City, since the decks it matters most against—Jeskai, Xerox, and BUG—can kill creatures more easily than enchantments. In this post-Narset world, Xerox usually crams a full 4 Lightning Bolt for instance. You can also consider Defense Grid, although our deck tries to drag games out enough where it's not as useful as normal.
  • Cast Seedtime. Seriously, have you seen Seedtime?

Spirit of the Labyrinth  Ethersworn Canonist  Seedtime

Anti Creatures

This requires the fewest deck slots, vintage being what it is, but even the most spell-heavy decks will still have a Monastery Mentor or a Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus. Swords to Plowshares remains the gold standard, and its exile clause is surprisingly relevant against cards like Vengevine or Dread Return.

Also keep in mind that many of the most menacing creatures in the format are also artifacts, which are already covered by the above sections, or graveyard reliant, which are as well. When Rest in Peace is out, your opponent's Tarmogoyf does a real nice impression of a Goat token.

Anti Tempo

Part of winning in Vintage is just preventing that Turn Two kill (or Turn One if you're on the play). Root Maze is a surprisingly effective way to slow down the opponent, and it works double time against Paradoxical Outcome or any deck with fetchlands. It also helps slip a few attacks through against Hollow Ones and Shops creatures.

Elvish Spirit Guide also helps slow down the opponent, since we can now cast any of our two-mana hate cards on Turn One. I even prefer it over Moxen in many cases. Consider how the two perform against Trinisphere, Sphere of Resistance, or Collector Ouphe.

Wasteland hardly needs explicating in a format of Tolarian Academy, Library of Alexandria, The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale, Eldrazi "sol lands," and plain old decks with low land counts. With our low curve, we can afford a lot of them. I even considered Ramunap Excavator but early testing didn't impress me.

Root Maze  Elvish Spirit Guide  Wasteland

Anti Anti

Other vintage decks run a lot of anti-format cards. But this deck is good against most of them! Consider:

  • We don't draw extra cards each turn, blanking the opponents' Narset, Parter of Veils and Leovold, Emissary of Trest.
  • We have very few artifacts, weakening the ample artifact hate.
  • We don't use our graveyard, blanking the ample graveyard hate.
  • We have no blue, blanking all Pyroblasts.
  • We do have instants, but few, and none that NEED to be cast on the opponent's turn, weakening all Defense Grids and Teferi, Time Ravelers.
  • We don't cast many spells each turn, blanking all Mindbreak Traps.
  • No legends, blanking Karakas.
  • Not affected by Pithing Needle.
  • Force of Wills don't hurt us as much as most decks, since we win with a critical mass of threats, not by resolving the One Important Spell. Getting a 2 for 1 is usually fine.

Seriously, look at the sideboards of the format's top decks and count how many cards are good against us. Mainly just Swords to Plowshares and Force of Vigor.


I think we're ready to take a look at my first draft of a decklist. 


This is all looking a bit ridiculous. Does it actually work? Let's take it to the Tournament Practice room.




Mishra's Workshop

Match 1 • Paradoxical Outcome

Game 1: I land a Turn 1 Hidden Guerrillas and, yes, my opponent stops to read it. Being a deck with 20 artifacts, they animate it immediately by dropping several. I attack for 5, drop a Kataki, War's Wage, and pass to them. (Pre-boarding is so strong!) They look a bit flustered. I drop a Spirit of the Labyrinth and get the scoop.

Game 2: They're on the play and get a storm count of 11 before passing to me. (That is one frustrating thing about having no Forces or Traps: no Turn 0 interaction, but I suppose Shops decks and Eldrazi decks are the same way.)

My Turn One is spent Wastelanding their Tolarian Academy, which feels nice, but I'm still at 0 permanents against their six. They pull out some sweet tech and tap all their artifacts to Mind Twist me for 6, leaving me with no permanents OR hand. I lose five turns later.

Game 3: Two Turn 1 Dryad Militants into a Turn 2 Wasteland and Rest in Peace feels good so far. They aren't able to cast much besides a Grim Monolith and Sensei's Divining Top before I kill them.

1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Eyyyyyyyy!!! This deck is already performing better than I expected. Let's try it again.


Match 2 • Shops

Game 1: I draw a little of my maindeck artifact hate, but they just outmuscle me, as Shops tends to do.

Game 2: They keep an unusual hand of all mana rocks into two creatures. I destroy both and we're left in a topdeck war, except I'm up by four cards.  We trade some more 1 for 1s, and when they start to pull ahead my Kataki, War's Wage finishes them off.

Game 3: I keep a hand that, although fine, doesn't have any artifact hate beyond a single Phyrexian Revoker. It's not enough. The embarrassing moment is when my own Root Maze prevents me from Wastelanding their Mishra's Factory in time.

1-1 matches, 3-3 games


Match 3 • different Paradoxical Outcome player

Game 1: I'm on the play, and if I had known what deck I was facing, I would have led with a Turn 1 land-mox-Spirit of the Labyrinth. Against an unknown opponent, I instead decide on Hidden Guerrillas plus leaving Natural State open.

They respond with (after pausing to read the Guerrillas) a Turn 1 Tinker into Bolas's Citadel. Darn. But the game's actually not over yet, because their Gitaxian Probe showed them my Natural State, and they know that as soon as they tap their Sensei's Divining Top, it's getting destroyed and they're fizzling out. They play a few cards and pass at 12 life.

I attack them for 5, then cast that Labyrinth to turn off their Top combo. Unfortunately, they now have a Force of Will waiting for it, and I'm tapped out of Natural State, so they win the game.

Game 2: Even after losing four cards to their Turn 1 Balance, my Turn 2 Labyrinth and Turn 3 Ethersworn Canonist are more than they can handle. Easy win.

Game 3: I keep a hand that, although full of power, has no hate cards. I think I should stop doing that. I deploy some creatures and get in for some damage over the next few turns. The opponent waits until a turn before I can attack for lethal then combos out.

1-2 matches, 4-5 games



Match 4 • Jeskai Xerox

Game 1: Their two Dreadhorde Arcanists stare at my Spirit of the Labyrinth, Hidden enchantments, and Dryad Militant for four turns. I'm completely safe unless they draw a Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares... which they do, kill one creature, attack, kill the other, and generate such advantage that I can't come back.

Game 2: I'm feeling good when they Force of Negation my Turn 1 Hidden Herd, but it was all downhill from there. They kill my Revoker, counter my Rest in Peace, and proceed to plop all over me with Arcanist plus Ancestral Recall. I concede to save us both time.

1-3 matches, 4-7 games


Not great! But given the facts that I made this archetype out of nowhere, had no outside input, and tested its first version, winning even that much feels promising. With a few changes to the list, play strategy, and mull strategy, this might have some potential.

Some possible avenues of exploration:

  • Splashing a third color. Running blue for Ancestral Recall and Time Walk, or even Timetwister (to pair with Spirit of the Labyrinth) has potential. Maybe in the sideboard? Our fetchlands enable it pretty easily. Nothing in red or black jump out at me as necessary.
  • Having more meaningful threats. Although the Hidden enchantments have high potential, some decks are better at withholding their cards than others. And true, a one-mana enchantment which reads "your opponent cannot play artifacts" is strong, but since your opponent is the one choosing which half of the card functions, we're left suffering from Browbeat syndrome. What about Tarmogoyf in the sideboard, to bring in for the matches when Rest in Peace comes out?
  • Powering up the existing threats. A 3/1 Spirit of the Labyrinth is strong against an empty battlefield, but not many vintage opponents provide you with one. I often just kept it cowering on defense, not wanting to attack it into the opponent's random 1-power dork. I'm not sure what this solution would look like though. Auras are too fragile, equipment is too slow, and global effects like Curse of Predation are a little underwhelming. I shall think upon this further.
  • Removing Root Maze and Seedtime. I was consistently unhappy to draw these. Root Maze hurts us too much, and we never have enough mana to cast a spell, get it countered, and then cast Seedtime all in one turn.
  • Adding more interaction. This deck folds pretty hard to Swords to Plowshares. One Mental Misstep would be a painless inclusion. Two Rebuff the Wicked in the sideboard is a funny idea.
  • Sideboard Chalice of the Void. We never want it on 1 or 2, since that's our entire curve, so no maindecking, but X=0 is good against Paradoxical Outcome

All in all a fun experiment! Let me know if you can think of any improvements to it.


How about Stony Silence? by AJ_Impy at Mon, 10/07/2019 - 16:27
AJ_Impy's picture

How about Stony Silence?