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Vintage Esper Good Stuff

I’ve been really excited about the addition of Vintage Leagues to MTGO. Deep down, I’m a Vintage player and when I think about playing for funsies, Vintage is always at the top of my list of formats I enjoy slinging.

Needless to say, I’m beyond stoked about the opportunity to play more Vintage via MTGO.

Before I get started talking about decks and whatnot, I’d like to make a quick observation about card prices. Wow, is Vintage expensive to play online… I know, I know, it’s way worse in paper, but I wish there was something that could be done to make the format a little bit more accessible to the average MTGO player.

As big of a fan as I am of Vintage, if I didn’t have friends who were kind enough to let me borrow cards, I would almost certainly have been priced out of playing Vintage. I imagine this to be the case for a lot of people who would otherwise be interested in joining in on the Vintage League fun but are skeptical about investing $700.00.

So far, it looks like the Leagues have been hovering around 100-200 players in the queue, which is awesome! It is certainly easier to find a game of Vintage than ever before. It is also possible that the cost of Vintage staples has risen a bit because of the newfound interest in the format and that the prices could even out in the coming weeks.

From the few Leagues I’ve been able to play, it looks like there are a lot of Mishra’s Workshops and a lot of Paradoxical Outcomes. I’m not surprised—these decks were already dominant in the metagame before the B&R announcement and the format changes have really solidified their position.

I haven’t seen any Yawgmoth’s Bargain decks yet, but I’ll be watching for them with enthusiasm.

For those of you who are not die-hard Vintage fans, the format is deceptively simple. Mishra’s Workshop vs. various blue decks. Sometimes Dredge throws its hat into the ring.

The decade-long war.

There are various kinds of Workshop decks—always mana denial, but sometimes aggressive and sometimes prison. There are also various kinds of blue decks—sometimes fishy aggro like Delver and sometimes combo/combo-control.

The cards are powerful:

The games are compact with a lot of big plays (often multiple big plays) every turn and eventually somebody gets wrecked. It’s a wild time.

Today I’d like to talk about the deck that I’ve been working on, Esper Good Stuff.

I borrowed a deck from my pal Jon Johnson to play some Leagues and record a video. He had a U/W Paradoxical Outcome deck that was fairly similar to the ones that have been popular online. I was kind of getting smoked by my opponents with it no matter what I did. The mirrors were all close, but the games felt extremely one-sided one way or the other, and my decisions didn’t matter a ton. Whoever drew the most Moxen the most quickly kind of just ended up winning. I also didn’t love the Mishra’s Workshop matchup with the deck. Despite having a zillion cards in the sideboard, it still felt pretty bad.

I decided after a few Leagues that I wanted to spice things up and play something that was a little bit more my style. Keep in mind that while I’ve played an endless summer of Vintage in my lifetime, I’m just getting back into the format competitively now. I’m having a blast, but I haven’t mastered all of the nuances of the new metagame yet.

Back in black.

I added black cards and tightened up the main deck to make it a little bit more powerful.

Esper Good Stuff

Brian DeMars

The basic strategy behind this deck is pretty well covered by “good stuff.” I’m playing with a lot of powerful restricted cards, and I have a lot of paths to victory in every matchup.

Winning time.

The two primary victory conditions are Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus, or take all of the turns with Time Vault combo (Tezzeret or Voltaic Key). In the meantime, the deck has a great capacity to tutor for key cards and protect itself with silver bullets like Balance or Hurkyl’s Recall.

I like going back to basics with cards like Yawgmoth’s Will and Gifts Ungiven, because they do some really powerful stuff in a deck full of so many powerful restricted cards. Snapcaster Mage is also a pretty awesome Gifts pile card!

One thing I noticed about playing the version with 4 Paradoxical Outcome is that while the card is obviously very powerful, it is quite bad if you don’t already have an awesome start with lots of jewelry. It is also very difficult to execute against Workshop decks with lots of Sphere effects. I cut down on Outcome to make room for some better Tutors and powerful spells that impact the board. I figure that the deck already has lots of broken things that can ignore the opponent, and so having a few more ways to interact can’t be bad!

I might consider cutting the second Outcome for something a little cheaper, like Mystical Tutor or even Thirst for Knowledge. I’m going to play more before I start getting too wild and cutting things.

My sideboard is basically built around 3 camps of cards:

Dredge hate.

Workshop hate.

Storm hate/blue deck hate.

Some of the cards overlap. Graveyard hate is also good against Storm decks since it cuts off their graveyard.

The pen is not mightier than the Swords to Plowshares.

I also have a few flexible cards that can come in across a wide array of matchups. I’d bring in Duress and Misdirection against any deck playing blue cards. Swords to Plowshares is awesome against Workshop decks as well as Delver of Secrets/Young Pyromancer. Swords is also a neat trick against Dredge since you can exile an early Narcomoeba or Ichorid before it can do too much damage. I would also consider bringing in a copy of Swords as a potential answer to Tinker/Blightsteel and Mentor.

One of the reasons I enjoy Vintage so much is that there are a ton of different ways a player can build or tune their deck. I’ve been writing a lot of articles suggesting that plays or decisions aren’t “right or wrong,” but rather have risk and reward. Trying to build a Vintage deck is an exercise in choices with risks and rewards.

I’ve been considering cutting Key/Vault/Tezzeret for a Tendrils of Agony and opening up a few spots for other spells. There is upside and downside here. The same goes for trying to decide which spells and in what quantity.

One of the biggest difference between playing Vintage now, as opposed to way back in the day when I played a lot, is that there are more great spells than any one deck can play. In the olden times, you simply played the restricted cards, 4 Drains, and had approximately 4 flex spots for utility/tutor targets. Now, there simply isn’t room for all the awesome cards, which makes everything about choices—that’s really cool.

I’d love to chat more, but I hear my computer calling… time to join another League!

Vintage is great.

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