Vintage isn’t as widely played as Standard or Modern, but it has a core of dedicated fans. When I get the chance to play, I always find it to be remarkably fun, engaging and rewarding.
Building a fully-powered Vintage deck in paper will be prohibitively expensive for the majority of players, but there are other ways to get the Vintage experience. Personally, I learned the format by playing budget decks or piecing together the strong cards I could access, while leaving out the ones that I couldn’t. Later, I started playing with proxies, which is something you can always do according to house rules or the preferences of your play group. Some tournament organizers hold unsanctioned Vintage events that allow five, 10 or even 15 proxies.
However, the best thing to ever happen for the accessibility of Vintage is its healthy presence on Magic Online. The format is heavily supported, with ways to qualify for both Arena Set Championships and the Magic Online Championship Series through Vintage.
Crucially, the cards are affordable on Magic Online! This is true at least in a relative sense, since Vintage power cards are several orders of magnitude cheaper on Magic Online than they are in paper. The cost of online Vintage is comparable to that of Modern and Legacy. Personally, since I already have some of the old staples on my account, I find it easier to build a new deck in Vintage than in Modern, as Vintage is slower to change.
As an exercise, I took a look at the top four decks in each of Modern, Legacy, and Vintage as displayed by MTGGoldfish at the time of writing. Among them, the average price for an online Modern deck is 742 tickets, for Legacy is 858 tickets and for Vintage is 730 tickets. This calculation can shift a bit depending on which decks you choose to look at, but I think it’s fair to say that playing Vintage on Magic Online need not be any more expensive than playing Modern or Legacy.
Additionally, you can sometimes find rental services or promotions that allow you unlimited access to cards for a flat fee. You can find information about the Mythic Event Token offered in March-April here.
What’s my point? You should give Vintage a try in whatever venue makes the most sense for you. Every long-time Magic player should get at least a little bit of experience slinging Black Lotus and Time Walk!
In writing this Deep Dive, my goal is to offer an overview of Vintage that can stand the test of time. Players who come from backgrounds in other formats, looking to try Vintage for the first time can read this and feel prepared to jump headfirst into a new challenge. I’m hopeful that experienced Vintage players can also pick up fresh tips, or new ways of organizing their thoughts.
Coming to Vintage from Standard or Limited will probably be a jarring experience (although not necessarily a bad one!). I predict that more players will be making the smaller leaps from Modern or Legacy.
The single biggest difference between Modern and Vintage is the presence of fast mana. A lot of the threats and answer cards are the same in Modern and Vintage.
However, all of the action you might see over the first four turns of a Modern game, is compressed into a shorter and less predictable amount of time in Vintage. Depending on how many Moxes and other fast mana sources are drawn, reasonable openings can range from Volcanic Island plus Ragavan to Mishra’s Workshop, Foundry Inspector, Mox Ruby, Sol Ring, Arcbound Ravager, Trinisphere.
Speaking of Trinisphere, a second difference is that attacking opponents’ mana is more prevalent in Vintage than in Modern. It shares this quality with Legacy.
Legacy offers both fast mana and strong opportunities to attack opposing mana. However, neither is quite as universal as it is in Vintage. In Legacy, players need to be intentional about playing cards like Mox Diamond or Ancient Tomb. In Vintage, most decks play at least a few Moxes, because there’s little reason not to.
Because mana is more crunched in Legacy, the format is centered very much around efficiency. Daze and Spell Pierce are great cards in Legacy. They see occasional play in Vintage as well, but you need to be prepared for them to “go dead” since players will sometimes have access to four, five or even more mana right away.
Finally, both Modern and Legacy are more centered around creature combat than Vintage. Modern and Legacy do have some creatureless decks, and creatures can be quite powerful in Vintage too, but the balance of power is much different. Playing four Swords to Plowshares might be a strong selling point for a Legacy deck, but a Vintage player is probably more likely to main-deck one or two, since they also have to cover their bases against non-interactive combo strategies.
The best decks in Vintage Cube can sometimes give you a real taste of Vintage gameplay. In both formats, games can be scrappy and center around creatures. But in both formats, you need to be prepared for games to end with a flurry of combo action at absolutely any time.