The Vintage FAQTable of Contents:
1. The Format
2. The Archetypes
3. The Card Pool
4. Vintage MythsSection 1: The Format
Vintage, otherwise known as Type One, is the oldest and most explosive format in Magic the Gathering. It was desgined to be the format which allows "all the cards ever printed" and still does, with exception of ante and dexterity cards (which use gambling and/or physical actions in the resolution of the spell). Vintage also allows the use of "broken" cards, including the infamous Power Nine. The Vintage format is commonly played in non-sanctioned events. In most cases, up to 10 proxies can be used to even the playing field.Note:
While these forums are for Sanctioned Tournament Decklists, I will continually note the role of proxies in Vintage play. The fact is, there aren't many sanctioned Vintage events, and due to that, the majority of the Vintage players compete in an unsanctioned, proxy environment.
Vintage does maintain its own banned and restricted list, which can be found here: Vintage B/R List.
This list is very important. Unlike other formats which ban cards deemed too powerful for the game, Vintage utilizes a restricted list, allowing you to use these ultra-powerful cards in a limited capacity (1 per deck). It's good to be familiar with each of these cards. Most of them make up a common skeleton from which most decks are built.Section 2: The Archetypes
A ton of time is spent trying to identify a tiered list of archetypes (deck types) and which builds belong in which tier. This is impossible. There are a ton of decks that get infinitely better as one progresses as a player. Likewise, there are a ton of archetypes that cap in effectiveness, despite the level of mastery the player has with the decklist.
Why list a deck as a Tier 1 archetype when only a handful of people can play it at a Tier 1 level?
Why list a deck as Tier 3 when great players continually abuse their opponents who are supposed to be playing better decks?
It's much better to catagorize decklists by style of play and how frequently a player may face such lists. That said, here is the list of decktypes organized by their type of play, complete with common archetypes for each decktype listed:Drain-based Decklists
These archetypes are specifically desgined to work through the tempo created by Mana Drain
. Common lists are heavy in blue control, looking to Drain into Gifts Ungiven
, Thirst for Knowledge
, or large artifacts.Common Drain-based Archetypes include Control Slaver, Meandeck Gifts, and Bomberman.Shop-based Decklists
These lists are accelerated through the use of Mishra's Workshop
. These decklists typically run heavy brown control to complete a prison or aggro gameplan.Common Shop-based Archetypes include: Chang Stax, Shop Aggro, and Uba Stax.Ritual-based Decklists
Explosive and spontaneous, these archetypes run a good amount of black, always looking to drop a huge turn 1 bomb through Dark Ritual
.Common Ritual-based Archetypes include: 2land Belcher, Grim Long, and Confidant TendrilsGrave-based Decklists
Be it Milling or Discard, grave-based lists are generally bypassing heavy casting costs by returning cards from the graveyard to play. It is very common to see Bazaar of Baghdad
in such lists.Common Grave-based Archetypes include: Dragon and IchoridOath-based Decklists
With Oath of Druids
as an engine, these tend to win via flying, trample, evasive beatdown and a heavy counter wall... but then again, there's so many options once you've decked yourself.Common Oath-based Archetypes include: GWS Oath, Salvagers OathTempo-based Decklists
These decks create positive tempo and win through utility beatdown. This is the widest range of archetypes covering pure accelerated aggro to slow paced aggro control.Common Tempo-based Archetypes include: Food Chain Goblins, Landstill, Sullivan Solution, and UW Fish.
If you're interested in researching which archetypes are played often, or if you're interested in monitoring which decks maintain good results, the StarCityGame Deck Database
is a great place to start.Section 3: The Card Pool Black Lotus
, Ancestral Recall
, Time Walk
, Mox Sapphire
, Mox Jet
, Mox Ruby
, Mox Emerald
, Mox Pearl
, and Timetwister
make up "The Power Nine." Each of these cards were limited in print through the Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited releases of Magic the Gathering. Each is on the restricted list and fairly expensive to purchase. These nine cards are very important for competing in the Vintage format and make up most of the proxies commonly seen in Vintage tournaments.
There are other important and powerful cards to consider in Vintage Magic (especially when working with proxies). Mishra's Workshop
, Bazaar of Baghdad
, and Mana Drain
are each very powerful, unrestricted cards that help define the format. These cards were mentioned in the Archetype descriptions. Library of Alexandria
is another example of a fairly expensive card that may be "proxied" for competition.
Outside of the cards mentioned above, there are a ton of cards that make up the "staples" of Vintage Magic. To be fair to the populace. There are 2 sets of "staples" mentioned in this FAQ. There are the cards that drive the format, and those which disrupt it. Even still, this list will cause debate. However, it is important to identify cards of importance. This not only helps new players in developing better lists, it helps identify the card pool one would likely want to assemble. This is especially true for the player that likes to switch which archetype is played every now and then.
To limit any possible debates, here are the definitions that were used to determine which cards are driving the format and which disrupt it:
Drivers: Cards which accelerate the winning of a game. This includes mana accelerators, draw cards and tutors, creatures designed to attack or combo with other game pieces, direct damage and lifeloss cards, life gaining cards, and enchantments and artifacts that "buff" other cards for the purpose of winning.
Disruptors: Cards which are used to slow or lock the opponent from the winning a game. This includes mana decelerators, counterspells, creatures which hamper the opponent's progress, and cards which attack the opponent's hand, library, graveyard, or out of game cards.Note:
There are certainly cards which sit on the edge of both. I tried to catagorize these using commonsense. Here are a few examples:
Example 1: Meddling Mage
and Withered Wretch
. Obviously, these can be offensive and "drive" one to victory with constant attacks. However, these are listed as disruptors. Their focus isn't to attack first; Their focus is to disrupt the opponent first, attack second.
Example 2: Old Man of the Sea
. Similar to Meddling Mage and Wretch, the Old Man can easily become the offense of the game. However, taking board control (especially in the form of creature control) is a defensive mechanic, thus this is listed as disruptors as well.
Example 3: Xantid Swarm
. While this card disrupts the opponent's casting, it's done so during an attack phase. This makes the card a driving force towards winning the game. Swarm's true presence isn't to disrupt the opponent, but pave the way for you to do what you want on your turn. If this card was truly a disruptor, it would effect the opponent's turn as well. Similarly, Boseiju, Who Shelters All
could be listed as a driving card. It is a catalyst that improves your offensive or defensive spells.
Also note this isn't meant to be a complete list. It's simply a list of common cards one should expect to see in a large tournament. There are certainly cards that work in Vintage Magic still not on this list. However, when building a decklist, especially one considered rogue and experimental, these 2 lists of staples will assist greatly in identifying some of the best card choices to fit in any decktype.100 Notable Vintage DriversSpoiler:
100 Notable Vintage DisruptorsSpoiler:
(in alphabetical order, seperated by color):
Bazaar of Baghdad
City of Brass
Dual Lands (Badlands, Bayou, Plateau, Savannah, Scrubland, Taiga, Tropical Island, Tundra, Underground Sea, Volcanic Island)
Library of Alexandria
Fetchlands (Bloodstained Mire, Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills)
Crucible of Worlds
Karn, Silver Golem
Lion's Eye Diamond
Sensei's Divining Top
Tendrils of Agony
Fact or Fiction
Thirst for Knowledge
Elvish Spirit Guide
Oath of Druids
Wheel of Fortune
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Multi or Gold:
Razia, Boros Archangel
Simic Sky Swallower
Section 4: Vintage MythsIs Vintage really that expensive to play?
(in alphabetical order, seperated by color):
Maze of Ith
Chalice of the Void
Sphere of Resistance
Chains of Mephistopheles
Hymn to Tourach
Leyline of the Void
Back to Basics
Blue Elemental Blast
Chain of Vapor
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Force of Will
In the Eye of Chaos
Old Man of the Sea
Rack and Ruin
Red Elemental Blast
Children of Korlis
Kami of Ancient Law
Kataki, War's Wage
Ray of Revelation
Seal of Cleansing
Swords to Plowshares
Wrath of God
Multi or Gold:
Hide / Seek
Shadow of Doubt
It could be. Owning a full set of Power Nine, plus Mana Drains, Mishra's Workshps, and Bazaar of Baghdads can get very expensive. However, the true price of the format is determined by the decklists played and the gaming environment. For example, if you want to play a decklist which requires the Moxen and Black Lotus to be effective, playing where proxies are allowed can bypass the HUGE expense of buying all those cards. As described above, many Vintage tournaments now allow proxies. This drastically reduces the financial burden Vintage can create.
Additionally, there are decklists designed not to run the expensive cards, but stop them. UW Fish is a perfect example. Rather than flirting with a complete set of Moxen, it incorporates Chalice of the Void
and/or Null Rod
to nullify the advantages a powered decklist would provide.
Before playing Vintage, ask around to see what is played. Many times, local players do not have the higher priced cards. This reduces the need to own them. In these cases, many groups allow "open" proxies so the entire card pool associated with the Vintage format can be played. If your group doesn't allow for proxies, ask them if they'd reconsider. Not only will you be able to try more archetypes, you'll get a good idea on a card's effectiveness before you buy it. Buying only what you need is a quick way to save money in Magic.Must a deck have a turn 1 kill to compete in Vintage?
No, this is false. Whether or not a deck is competitive is really determined by the skill level of the player piloting the decklist and the competition its played against. A slow-paced decklist like UW Fish can easily rout a field of fully-powered combo decklists well known for their turn 1 antics. Additionally, a pro-caliber player could play an awful decklist and earn respectible results against less experienced competition. However, take that UW Fish up against a field of Ichorid lists or drop that pro player into a field of pro players and watch each struggle.
Most people agreed that the critical turn in Vintage play is turn 3. By then a control deck should be controlling, an aggro deck should be tapping to attack, and a combo deck should be looking to the end game. Keep in mind, this does not excuse a decklist from having good 1st and 2nd turn plays. Decklists that win on turn 1, commonly do so through an outrageous play and a lot of luck. A great decklist like Grim Long has capacity to win on turn 1, but to do so quite a bit of luck is required. The player needs to draw a great hand and be able to play that hand uninterrupted.
There are other moves that create a first-turn kill "feel" as well. Turn 1 Mishra's Workshop
isn't a turn 1 kill, though if you looked at the success rate of those with that opening play, one could easily consider it a turn 1 win. Same can be said with Turn 1 Tinker
for Darksteel Colossus
. In each of these situations, the cards required to break out from under these circumstances can be hard to come by. A blue control deck could and should consider Tinker
to Colossus its first turn kill. As should Stax with its first turn Trinisphere
.Is it true that there are very few decks which can compete and win?
Again, that could be the case. It could also be false. As mentioned above, one of the first things to consider is the gaming environment. If the competition is using "pet" decks and randomly testing new things often, an archetype normally thought as underpowered could flourish. However, if one continually plays in large scale tournaments against the best regional competition available, the amount of viable archetypes can become limited.
By determining the competiton and budget of the gaming environment (also called the Metagame), one can determine which decks are lost causes and which really have a shot to consistently win.
Remeber, not everyone is competing for thousands in prizes, a lot of Vintage players play the format to use their entire cardpool and really don't require the best of the best to compete.This FAQ was last updated 02-13-07. Feel free to contact [stew] for any needed updates.