Hello and good day to all, I am Kaleb “Gloriouswolfman” Woodward and welcome to part two of the four part article series on my current favorite format, Vintage. The last article covered what Vintage is and my own personal journey into the format. This time we will be covering the major decks/archetypes you will see in the Vintage meta. A warning however, with such a high card pool, not every deck can be covered, but this article will cover as much as we can.
Are you a blue player? Do you like drawing cards? I don’t just mean a few cards, I mean burying your opponent under mountains of card advantage until their will to fight has diminished . If so, then the Xerox archetype is the deck for you.
Xerox is a deck that maximizes on all the cantrips and card draw spells like 4 Preordain, 1 Brainstorm, 1 Dig Through Time, 1 Ponder, 1 Gitaxian Probe and of course 1 Ancestral Recall to value out the opponent and make sure you have all the best resources you need to win the game. Pairing these spells with creatures like Dreadhorde Arcanist and Monastery Mentor in the Jeskai colors will let you cast your Ancestral Recall again or get some Monks for all your spells.
You can use other color combinations as well, such as just blue-red or Sultai, but the most popular seems to be Jeskai as it gets both efficient removal spells such as Swords to Plowshares and reach in Lightning Bolt. The other advantage of this archetype is it can be applied to whatever playstyle you enjoy, so feel free to play around with it.
Now maybe you prefer your value in creatures and planeswalkers over instants and sorceries, so let’s discuss the next major Archetype: Deathrite Shaman decks. These decks primarily have two flavors in Sultai, often referred to as BUG, and 4 Color Control, known as 4 Color Walkers).
BUG is a deck very near and dear to me, as it was my first ever complete Vintage deck. This deck pairs Deathrite Shaman, or DRS for short, with Collector Ouphe, Tarmogoyf and Leovold, Emissary of Trest to lock your opponent out and beat them down.
The deck also plays everyone’s favorite Simic mistake and planeswalker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, who needs no introduction. The first time you swap your food for a Monastery Mentor or attack for lethal with a Black Lotus a la Joe Brennan, you’ll be singing his praises too.
Leovold does a great job in limiting card draw from your opponent and providing protection to you and your permanents, since your opponent will not want to target anything and let you draw cards until they absolutely must.
Ouphe shuts down artifact mana and paired with 4 Wasteland and 1 Strip Mine, your opponent is going to have a real hard time casting their spells, while you use your DRS to “eat” their lands out of the yard to continue casting your spells. Don’t forget to “eat” instants and sorceries to make Dreadhorde Arcanist and Snapcaster Mage unthreatening and to “shock” your opponent each time. Goyf acts as a big wall of a creature that the opponent has to answer without Pyroblast.
As for 4 Color Walkers, this deck is similar to BUG but with a more planeswalker-heavy focus. This incorporates red to add cards like Dack Fayden, Wrenn and Six and Pyroblast along with familiar threats like Oko and Tarmogoyf. This deck looks to get ahead with Wasteland/Strip Mine loops with Wrenn and Six, using Dack and Narset, Parter of Veils or Leovold to make your opponent draw one before discarding two, all while using DRS to eat away at life totals and to fix your mana to cast all these different colored spells.
If you prefer to combo and win the game in one turn without turning a single creature sideways, then Doomsday is the deck for you. This is a deck revolving around it’s namesake card Doomsday, which you attempt to create a pile of five cards chaining together draw spells, mana and Thassa’s Oracle to win the game. It also has the backup plan of using Oracle with Demonic Consultation, naming a card that is not in your library to win the game on the spot. It also has the sideboard plan of playing big Delve threats to attack your opponent when they have taken out all the creature removal and provide you an alternate way of winning. If you enjoy thinking about and solving puzzles, then this is the deck for you.
If you want to combo, jam as much power as you can in a deck, and do dumb things with the card Tinker, then you can play either Paradoxical Outcome or Dark Petition Storm (DPS). These both abuse Bolas’s Citadel but win on different axes, one using Monastery Mentor or Sprite Dragon and the other uses Tendrils of Agony.
PO, titled after it’s namesake card Paradoxical Outcome, is a deck looking to use all the fast mana, such as Moxen, Black Lotus and Sol Ring with Paradoxical Outcome to draw cards, replay your artifacts and make Monks with Monastery Mentor. You can then cast Time Walk and a couple more spells to trigger prowess to attack for lethal. It can also reuse cards by casting Yawgmoth’s Will and replaying them from the graveyard. PO does have a 4-color version as opposed to Esper that adds red to play Pyroblasts as well as the additional threat of Sprite Dragon which, unlike Mentor, can win the turn it’s cast.
As for DPS, the deck pairs Dark Petition with Vintage-legal tutors such as Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor alongside a ton of artifact mana to maximize spells and kill the opponent with Tendrils of Agony. This deck, despite having Blue, plays no counter magic and instead plays Defense Grid to stop the opponent from interacting while you are “going off.” Unlike PO which plays a Tinker threat in the sideboard, such as Blightsteel Colossus or Sphinx of the Steel Wind, DPS just goes all-in on its game plan of storming off every match. DPS has become less popular recently but it’s still around and still a force to be reckoned with in the hands of the right pilot.
If you enjoy enabling your combo by just tapping a land, there’s a deck that exists for that, and no, it’s not Thespian’s Stage copying Dark Depths. Instead, it uses Forbidden Orchard to give the opponent a non-flying spirit and turning on the namesake of our next archetype, Oath of Druids, using it to get giant creatures to win the game. Oath decks have several different varieties with the same core, but the main creatures are Griselbrand and Niv-Mizzet, Parun, both making a huge impact on the board and combo well together.
Their biggest weaknesses are that they both get removed by Karakas, requiring you have to find a new way to put them back in your deck or actually cast them, which you can, but really is not where you want to be. For this reason, I have seen some running more non-legendary threats such as Inferno Titan, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Blazing Archon and recently Dream Trawler. The interesting aspect about Oath is it can be built so many ways. There are Oath storm decks using Griselbrand to storm off or Oath Breach decks, using Sun Titan to return an Underworld Breach that you milled for extreme value.
There are also Oath decks that look to make the most impact the turn they come out, using Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn while hoping to mill a Dragon Breath to build your own Sneak Attack that lets them stay around after the turn ends. Outside of using Forbidden Orchard to enable your Oaths, you have Oko, Thief of Crowns. He can turn your opponent’s artifact mana into Elks to turn on Oath of Druids and turn off opposing threats like Grafdigger’s Cage, Containment Priest and other fatties so you no longer have to worry about them. While you will have to take three damage before you trigger the Oath, three damage seems worth it for a 7/7 that can immediately refill your hand with lifelink. Like other creature decks, Oath really loves to use Time Walk as a way to give your threats “haste” and get the most advantage of them.
Next up we have Shops decks, based around its namesake card, Mishra’s Workshop. These are artifact-based decks that can be broken down into three major types: Aggro Shops, Golos Shops and Combo Shops. These decks use prison elements like Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere and Thorn of Amethyst to lock the opponent out of playing spells, while you use your Workshops and Ancient Tombs to pay the extra for your spells with no extra effort. Aggro shops play like Modern Affinity except are far more degenerate. This deck looks to play creatures like Walking Ballista, Foundry Inspector, Phyrexian Revoker and Arcbound Ravager to as aggressive as possible, then sacrifice everything for a lethal Ballista kill. You also get 1 Lodestone Golem that is both a one-sided prison element and a heavy hitter. Some of aggro lists have been running a number of Fleetwheel Cruisers as a threat that can just come out of nowhere and can be crewed by basically every creature in your deck.
Golos Shops however are a different story. This deck plays some similar creatures, but uses Golos, Tireless Pilgrim with Karakas to “ramp” and protect Golos instead of trying to kill your opponent as quickly as possible. This deck is a lot heavier focused on prison elements, adding God-Pharaoh’s Statue to stop your opponent from ever casting spells while you attack with your Stonecoil Serpent or Bazaar of Baghdad, laughing as they sit with a handful of cards that can’t be cast.
The last major Shops deck that is not as popular, but you do still see occasionally is Combo Shops. This deck utilizes the typical Shops cards, but also has combo elements, using Leyline of the Void and Helm of Obedience as well as the aforementioned Stage/Depths combo but adds Mirage Mirror as backup plan. This style also can play Golos as a land tutor to grab Depths, Stage or more. All Shops decks do have the same common element, using powerful artifact mana such as Moxen, Black Lotus, Sol Ring, Mana Vault and Mana Crypt to power out spells as early as possible. They also play the full mana denial package of 4 Wasteland and 1 Strip Mine, while Golos and Combo Shops also tend to have some number of Crucible of Worlds to recur the land destruction effects, any destroyed Shops or make another 20/20 with the Dark Depths combo. Shops decks rarely play any colored spells except Leyline of the Void as it’s almost never cast it, while occasionally seeing a Dismember or Phyrexian Metamorph, with everything else a colorless artifact designed to be cast with Workshop and off Mystic Forge.
Finally, the last major archetype is Bazaar of Baghdad decks. These are decks that look to abuse the extra draw and discard aspect of Bazaar to fuel graveyard strategies. The most obvious graveyard deck is Dredge, an all in Graveyard deck that uses the dredge mechanic to put in creatures like Mental Misstep, Ichorid and Prized Amalgam while milling Creeping Chill. Cabal Therapy helps clear out the opponent’s hand and get value from Bridge From Below which triggers at the end of turn when you sacrifice Ichorid. Some decks will run a Dread Return package to reanimate an Elesh Norn or Thassa’s Oracle, but those aren’t common. Dredge rarely casts many spells, but they can play Force of Negation and Force of Will, as they have the blue card count with Prized Amalgams and Narcomoebas, as well as Mental Misstep. Dredge has posted results, with a list using Library of Alexandria piloted by Wizard_2002 winning Eternal Weekend.
Hollow One decks look to free cast Hollow One after activating Bazaar, while running Basking Rootwalla as a free madness spell to attack your opponent and chisel away at their life total. They also generate massive advantage off Bazar by returning Squee, Goblin Nabob every upkeep. Some lists play Vengevine with Memnite as an additional creature to trigger the vine, while the newer “Horrorvine” deck uses Krovikan Horror and an additional Squee for even more advantage while running The Ur-Dragon or Reaper King as “pitch’ spells for Force of Negation, Force of Will, Force of Vigor, Contagion and Sickening Shoal.
HogaakVine is the “fairest” of the three. Unlike the other two decks listed, it runs lands to cast spells while using Bazaar and Stitcher’s Supplier to put cards like Vengevine, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Bloodghast in the graveyard. The deck also gets Deathrite Shaman which is great for additional damage and can even help you cast your spells later on if needed. This is also the only major Bazaar deck to play power, using Moxen and Black Lotus to help cast spells while also playing Hollow One like other Dredge decks, because if you’re discarding three, why not play a 4/4 for free?
Of course, there are other decks in Vintage, as people are always brewing, bringing back old favorites or playing pet decks. This is just a sample of what you may see playing your first Vintage league, prelim on Magic Online or when paper events happen in person. Another great resource for finding out these archetypes is Justin “IamactuallyLvl1” Gennari’s video that he made to get everyone prepared for Eternal Weekend Vintage 2020. He is also a great resource for gameplay videos, with over 1200 different matches on his channel, there is something for everyone. Make sure to keep an eye out for the next article covering converting existing decks in Legacy and Modern into Vintage.