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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Dec 12 2017 12:00pm
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Not so long ago Lee Sharpe tweeted that he had something special to tell us. I ignored that more or less because what could possibly interest me? Old-frame Power was actually something that came to my mind since we were complaining about the modern frames and illustrations for quite a while on Twitter. Wizards actually seemed to find a way how to give us what we want but I had no idea how they would do it and when.

Here you can compare how the old Power with new frames and new illustrations look like compared to the new Power with original frames and illustrations.


A day later I saw Vintage Masters all over my Twitter feed. I rejoiced! There are two reasons for that. It's the very first time that we can play with a Masters set once again! This flashback will also bring us the Power Nine cards in old frame with their original illustrations which is something many Vintage players wanted since day 1 of these cards being available to us. Just look at the cards! Isn't that beautiful?

Enough of me swooning over the new Power, this article is about Vintage Masters because it is truly an awesome set for drafting.

Vintage Masters is coming to Magic Online on December 13 and will be available for one week (Lorwyn will still get its flashback, we don't know when yet). There will be new booster packs given out because they contain the old frame Power cards. The new packs are gray featuring Lion's Eye Diamond's illustration. Both types of packs can be used to enter the Vintage Masters League, they have to be of the same kind though.

An Intermediate Draft League and a Phantom Draft League will be available to us. The Intermediate Draft League costs 25tix/250PP/240PP Bundle or 3 packs of either VMA + 3 tix to enter and the prizes are 6 VMA packs and 1 QP for 3-0 and 2 VMA packs for 2-1. Phantom Draft League costs 10tix/100PP to enter and awards 150/100/40/10 PP.


Vintage Masters

The cards in Vintage Masters are very old so if you've never played during Tempest or Odyssey for example you can experience how it felt like drafting that. The cards in VMA are pre-8th edition cards or pre-Modern frame if you like which is kind of ironic since Vintage Masters cards have the new frame. Apart from these there are cards from Planechase and Conspiracy. They feel pretty strange in the set but they are mostly legal in Vintage and Legacy so they also avoid the 'Modern' era in a way (it is especially odd if you suddenly face Jace, the Mind Sculptor).

Compared to other sets the power level of Vintage Masters could be described as 'through the roof'. Reprint sets like Modern Masters have a high power level but still don't come even close to VMA. Vintage Masters stand somewhere between a Modern Masters set and Vintage/Legacy Cube. The decks you can draft are very strong and the format is actually pretty fast. 'Decks' is the right term to use because in this format you need to draft cards that have synergy with other cards. This makes the format very strong. The other reason why we can draft powerful decks is the fact that there were many downshifts in rarity. Also note that this set is really big and that you won't see specific rares or even uncommons as often as in a regular set. If there is an uncommon you want to build your deck around you will have to most likely first pick it.

Since the power level of this set is very high and your decks will be build mostly out of powerful commons there is also room for 'money picks'. If you start drafting something and you see that someone next to you is drafting it, you can switch and still have a good viable deck.

If you are going to draft Vintage Masters I advise you to keep in mind that one of the best decks is Boros Aggro. The reason may be this card from Judgment that was downshifted from uncommon to common. If you see it, pick it.

The list of downshifted cards to common follows.

The draft archetypes are actually (Standard) constructed archetypes from decades ago. One can draft decks of all archetypes - aggro (White Weenie, Goblins, Suicide Black), combo (Storm), control (Lightning Rift control) or midrange (GB Rock, BW Attrition).


White Weenie
Battle Screech is for me simply the best common in the format. It can remind us of Lingering Souls. In this set Battle Screech is even more potent than Lingering Souls in Innistrad block. Many of the common aggressive creatures have or can gain Shadow which makes it very difficult for other decks to interact with these creatures. Both white and red have many aggressive creatures. Since global removal is very scarce going wide is not a problem. One can play mono white or splash a color. White-red is very common the same way white-black is since that also has many aggressive creatures and also has access to Death Grasp.

Drafting Goblins is relatively easy because all you need are some inexpensive Goblins, Beetleback Chief (the more the better) and Goblin Generals that will usually just table. If you are drafting Goblins or Boros go wide aggro a card to pick and not pass is Rites of Initiation. That is an instant speed Overrun and is actually the real deal. It just kills out of nowhere. Falter can also help you go through creature opposition very easily.

Suicide Black
Black-Red aggro is another viable archetype but unlike white it does not have an overpowered card on a common slot. This deck needs to curve out otherwise it utterly dies. It can be stopped way more easily than White Weenie. Also having good aggressive creatures in black comes with a price - life loss. There are cards like Carnophage, Sarcomancy and Fledgling Djinn which are very good at dealing damage fast but also make you lose 1 life in upkeep. Dauthi Mercenary is practically unblockable (unless you face White Weenie) and a nice mana sink. Fallen Askari used to be one of my favorite cards with Flanking. Black has removal in the form of Chainer's Edict, Expunge or Paralyze. To slow your opponent down or disrupt them there are cards like Mesmeric Fiend or Choking Sands. If you don't get enough black cards, you can also start picking some red cards. You probably won't pass a card like Flametongue Kavu or Solar Blast but if you run out of black cards there are still some 2 power Goblins, several burn/removal spells (Chain Lightning, Solar Blast, Kindle) and also Reckless Charge which can turn into a nightmare for an opponent on a slower deck. Even though my deck below went 3-0, that's not the best approach to this deck. Try to stay in Suicide Black if possible and just splash some red cards.

Lightning Rift/Astral Slide Control
This is THE control deck in the format and it is a very fun deck. I used to splash blue most of the times (mostly because of Prophetic Bolt and Scrivener) but you can also run just white-red. The deck is built around Lightning Rift which can be a win condition. It deals with smaller creatures and creates value out of cards with the cycling ability. This way one can even play cards like Gilded Light which isn't a good card otherwise unless you board it against Storm. If you manage to draft Astral Slide you will focus more on creatures with comes into play abilities. There are plenty of them but the most common ones are Teroh's Faithful, Beetleback Chief, Flametongue Kavu, or Man-o'-War. My favorite one is Scrivener, especially if it can return Prophetic Bolt (usually just returns a card with cycling). The problem of this deck is that it sometimes struggles to win the game. A card that can solve this problem is for example Goblin Trenches (or another copy of Chartooth Cougar or Noble Templar which can be reanimated by Mistmoon Griffin for example).

UG Madness
If you played around Odyssey than you will recognize this deck very easily. It's pretty much the same as it used to be both in limited and constructed. What you need are enablers. The best one being Wild Mongrel. There is also Waterfront Bouncer, Aquamoeba which isn't that good anymore because of damage not going on stack, or Krovikan Sorcerer. Some cards with cycling are also pretty good in this deck as they fill two roles - especially Choking Tethers. You can also use Frantic Search to dig through your deck and gain value of it by casting Madness cards. Roar of the Wurm may not have Madness written on it, but having a 6/6 for 4 mana is pretty good. Similarly Grizzly Fate is such an awesome card. With this deck you can get Treshold very easily and getting 4 bears for 5 mana is usually just too much for the opponent to handle. You can even play Circular Logic or Counterspell - I was usually boarding those when I needed them.

GW Auras
One of the decks that I used to play against often were GW Auras. Ever heard of a card named Dreampod Druid? It is a card that comes from Planechase which is probably the reason I never heard about it before its release in Vintage Masters. This is one of the cards you want to draft if you want to be playing GW Auras. Enchant it, protect it and produce as many Squirrels as you can. The second creature you really want is Deftblade Elite. This creature in vacuum may not seem good. It is a pretty good blocker though and also can provoke a creature so other creatures can go through. When this creature gets enchanted with anything from Brilliant Halo to Armadillo Cloak it gets ridiculously good because it suddenly snipe any opposition. Since Auras have to be attached to a creature, we need enough of creatures and also some way how to protect those creatures from dying. The best cards for that are Benevolent Bodyguard and Shelter. With this deck we should also have more creatures in play so we avoid edict effects (Chainer's Edict, Predatory Nightstalker).

UB Storm
Vintage Masters is one of the sets that allows us to play Storm. Who wouldn't want to play High Tide, Turnabout, several rituals and Brain Freeze for the win? Unfortunately this archetype can go wrong easily. If you draft a good deck you will easily win, but when the deck is even less than optimal you will get crushed. As a Storm win condition we have Brain Freeze and for the brave ones also Tendrils of Agony. Since Brain Freeze is an instant it can be recurred with Scrivener meaning that sometimes we don't need to mill all cards at once. To help us cast cards with a discount there is Nightscape Familiar. What we need in order to chain spells is card draw (Frantic Search, Obsessive Search, Gush, Plea for Power, Ancestral Recall for the lucky ones), ways how to generate mana (Dark Ritual, Cloud of Faeries, High Tide, Turnabout) and the win condition. We want also one or two counterspells to either deal with something that really threatens to kill us or Gilded Light.

In UB we can also draft a control deck or tempo deck. Unfortunately these decks are difficult to draft since the cards will be picked by other players for different archetypes. Psychatog is a beast though.

RG Beats
The presence of Fires of Yavimaya suggests that we can draft RG Beats archetype. It's actually pretty potent. Fires of Yavimaya changes the game a lot for the opponent who will have to think twice about attacking since you can play a fatty and attack for lethal. To draft this deck all you need is some Fyndhorn Elves and then draft the big green creatures you can get - Blastoderm, Erhnam Djinn, Simian Grunts, Krosan Vorine etc. The activation ability on Fires of Yavimaya is strong too. It is a trick that the opponent has to play around and that's often not easy.


This was a quick overview of the most common archetypes you will encounter in a Vintage Masters Draft League. You may face different decks since there are way more possibilities how to build a deck. Some of the still relatively common decks are UW (Skies) Tempo, UG Ramp, GB Rock or BW Attrition. Note that synergy is very important in VMA. Good stuff decks can work but for that you often need to open good rares or uncommons. Don't be afraid to experiment though, 5-color good stuff can still win a draft!

Turn 1 creature and turn 2 swing for 5 reminded me a lot of One With the Wind in Ixalan. In Ixalan it is very difficult to recover from something like that but in VMA you can still very easily die after such an opening.

Happy drafting
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online, stsungjp on Twitter)