Oath and Griselbrand
Hey everyone! I'm kinda new to vintage, played legacy since 2013 and been playing vintage on MTGO since the VMA drafts made the P9 really cheap, so I guess my text will have some wrong ideas but I'd like some help to get to a new understanding of things here.
I got a concern about oath. Have you ever felt that griselbrand is no longer a good choice of creature for oath? I'm testing a 2 inferno titan 1 griselbrand build now with some conflicting results (been very good at challenges, but poor at leagues). Also, I've tested bryanpk's list on MTGO but got very poor results, probably because there's a lot more of complexity on it (specially for someone new to the format), and I really don't enjoy getting beaten out for 12 dollars each 5 games, so I decided to drop that and go to the more mainstream build of it.
I don't know how to list the deck here in a way that it stays organized, so I'll link the list I got kinda lucky last weekend with so that you have an idea what I've been working with: DECKLIST
One thing I noticed, is that post-board things usually go much slower for our opponents (hate in, business out usually), and oath end up becoming a really good tutor for our fatties with cage in play. I've been very lucky, on my probably 10 "caged oath" activations so far, I've always got to find what I needed (and could cast), the inferno titan. But that's a 33% chance of hitting griselbrand.
Other thing is that most of the times an inferno titan does the trick, and I'd even say that the % chance of winning with a inferno titan getting hit is higher than griselbrand. Maybe I'm taking too long and needing to get rid of the board when oath gets activated. I really don't have enough experience yet to say what's the matter here. But when I get griselbrand in hand that's pretty terrible. Except for the extra-long game or when you have 5 lands/moxen + lotus you just can't cast griselbrand, and it will always be a bad card to have in hand, as well as a bad card to discard to dack fayden (1 less target, as is inferno titan too). But inferno titan is ok to have in hand, because you can get to cast it a lot of times (most of the games, I'd say).
Maybe there's a better option (other creatures, or not doing this), but I guess I'll try dropping griselbrand for the 3rd inferno titan.
Other thing I've tried in the last challenge (which kinda worked out) was to drop the oaths against more controllish matchups. If we resolve a bomb, aka inferno titan or planeswalker, it's really hard to deal with, and sometimes oath does nothing with cage. Maybe it's better to make them have 4 dead cards (probably more, like nature's claim or whatever), and get to a more controlish "bomb-based" game. Maybe get more walkers and manarocks? Something in the sideboard? Have you ever dropped completely the oath plan for something else? Did that work out?
Other thing is, what do you think about punishing oath nowadays in vintage? It seems like a cool idea to get rid of aggro decks, planeswalkers, and to have some (very slow) inevitability, alongside it's card advantage engine with dack fayden and to kill excess of opponent's tokens or yours even when fighting against a oath deck to see who gets less creatures in play.
Sorry for the long and probably hard to understand text, but it's really hard to express myself when there are so many ideas combined with lack of knowledge about the format.
Now I've been doing some changes, most notably:
Take the tutors off the deck (black cards actually, since with grove for the PFire combo it won't be able to work);
Put 2 pfire in the place of the tutors;
Take the USea and 2 fetches out for 3 groves;
Take out Griselbrand, put the 3rd inferno titan;
Take the 2nd sylvan library out, put a new Chandra;
Take out the maindeck ancient grudge (I think PFire improved the match against robots) and put the 4th preordain.
Change the mox pearl for a Sol ring - I think now the decklist focus more on trying to play the biggest things, and pearl was a colorless mox. I'm not confortable playing mana crypt since games can go long and without outcome or something like that to bounce it, I don't think that's really good. And if they misstep, they missteped I guess.
I think the mox jet can still continue on the deck (even though it's colorless), as we want acceleration. Just don't think it would be wise to spend 6 manas on mox+sol ring. But maybe it would.
On the sideboard, now with PFire I think the deck doesn't want abrade anymore, as ancient grudge is better in this list IMO. I think I will leave the 3rd punishing fire to the sideboard and add another grudge.
I think I still can make some changes to improve the idea of "oathless control" post-sideboard against control matchups (since with the actual configuration I can bring in fluster, 2 pyro and maybe some artifact disruption, which doesn't seem very good to me). I'm thinking about either put more disruption (REB, fluster) or another Arlinn Kord. Arlinn sounds nice as one of my concerns is UW landstill (the 2 matches I lost in the challenge were against it), and it can protect itself against factory (only 1 wolf each 2 turns, but still), can bolt jace or a priest, doesn't die to pyroblast and also obviously can give a titan haste, vigilance and +2/+2 if it ever get to come into play.
I appreciate the attention you gave to this topic, for who reached this far. And as I said, I'm not sure the changes I made are good as I lack experience, but seems worth a shot to me.
I started testing tonight, and there are some bizarrely predictable problems that I didn't consider:
*3 grove instead of 1 USea and 2 fetches are really... punishing. I realized I had only 13 instead of 16 blue mana, and it came down to bite me a few times.
*With 4 orchards as part of my manabase, it's really common to have 2-4 tokens applying pressure against me, and what have I just done? Increased the planeswalkers count :|
With those changes I improved a little the matchup against shops (which was already good for me), and the others got worse. I think maybe even the control matchups.
As always, there were a few times I casted inferno titan, where I wouldn't be able to cast griselbrand. The only time I missed the oath activation for grisel was against storm, the other matches I would rather have it activated on inferno titan, or at least it would win or still lose the game anyways. I will still make that change (grisel for the 3rd titan), and the others I will have to try better later.
About the walkers: I ended up trying +1 chandra main e +1 Xenagos sideboard. I think Xenagos can help you when you are getting pressured and won't just die to 2 or 3 tokens that were generated along the way, also it has a nice clock and can be though to beat in some situations. Chandra just wins when it ults, but it's +1 will usually just be a 2 damage spell, as it can grab lots of lands, counters, or cards that are too expensive to be cast at that time. It's kinda fast to ult (3 turns after it was cast), but I think it's not enough to deserve a spot. Arlinn is good both as value and to increase the power of oath. It's not as good for value as Xenagos, as Xenagos can make tokens every turn and is good at killing PWs since the tokens also have haste. That being said, I think Xenagos is too much on the "good when not comboing" side of the things, so I think it wouldn't be really good mainboard, maybe sideboard (when we are more ok about not comboing off). And as for Chandra, I don't think I will try her in this shell anymore.
It was still only 1 league, but it was enough to see the biggest mistakes (I guess).
At tomorrow's challenge I will try the original with +1 slice and dice(main) +1 inferno titan +1 sol ring -1 griselbrand -1 ponder -1 mox pearl, and sideboard -1 slice and dice (brought it to main) +1 Xenagos.
Very nice and detailed set of posts.
I agree that Griselbrand is by far the worst card in the deck. He is almost entirely uncastable and more frequently than ever, late to the party, whether that is an overpopulated Shops board or some combination of Jace across the table, low life, or alternative situations of opponents' overdevelopment. I cringe every time I draw him and feel like I want to cut him forever. His main roles are:
Being the general purpose "best creature" across the board g1 after activating your Oath, which is something more likely to happen in a g1 than any other game in the match.
Being relevant against Dredge and Combo, which are the two match-ups where Inferno Titan most often falls short.
However, he is not indespensible. In 2016, I played Dromoka/Auriok Gush Oath at Champs without Griselbrand and placed in 17th and IIRC it was the highest placing Oath deck that year. I don't think I ever missed him and I probably benefited from never drawing that horrendously dead card. Side note: has anyone noticed that MTGO seems to put Griselbrand in your hand far more often than it should? There's no such thing as a pure 100% randomizer, though some experts can come close, but it would not surprise me if MTGO's falls very far from optimal benchmarks or even contains some metrics to influence the game-play experience that they believe would somehow increase the program's profitability.
Other general thoughts:
Griselbrand is slightly more feasible in builds that are maindecking Underground Sea but running black may or may not be desirable at that given point in time.
Boarding out a lot of Oath material is indeed a proper strategy in post-sideboard games, particularly against Landstill where Forbidden Orchard is outright dreadful.
Arlinn is very strong in multiple contexts including UW Landstill which you mention. Dack Fayden is the best planeswalker in the list and then it's a toss-up between Jace and Arlinn. I've gone down to 1 Jace before several times without issues. It's often not worth slithering around Pyroblast (or failing to do so) to put an imperiled planeswalker on a board with Spirit tokens and Oath is not like the hard-control decks that really abuse Jace. Chandra is a good planeswalker in general though she's also not good at protecting herself from Spirits and access to RR is a big barrier, since the fetch protocol for Oath wants you to have at least one green and at least one red before trying to double up on one of the secondary colors (if that's even possible, with disgusting Wastelands being so rampant). I would rate Xenagos and Nahiri (if you have white) right behind Jace as preferable planeswalkers to Chandra in modern Oath builds. For those reasons, having a second Arlinn or additional non-blue planeswalker is not a bad call.
Finally, the Punishing Fire take on Oath of Druids has its charms though the lists I've seen have suffered from only being able to support a few Moxen (weakening Thorn matches) and they are much softer to RItual, Dredge, Paradoxical combo, and Karakas than Inferno lists.
Good luck with your refining, -B
Hey there, I just got into the format recently myself and have been enjoying tweaking various options in Oath.
We seem to think alike here - the deck feels better in the Challenge than in Leagues for whatever reason, and Griselbrand often leaves me disappointed to see him. I haven't been able to bring myself to drop Griselbrand yet, as he feels so good when he arrives at the right time. I have occasionally been siding him out when going "off the Oath plan" post-board, but maybe he just isn't consistent enough in a deck that often wants to flip something else.
I have been experimenting with Carnage Tyrant and promoted it to the main deck. It seems that either Tyrant or Sphinx of the Final Word is needed to compete with the other blue decks and end the game even where I've been losing ground. My current package of 1 Inferno + 1 Tyrant + 1 Griselbrand + SB Gisela makes me feel comfortable in most matchups that aren't Paradoxical, which I have started packing Null Rods for. I am pretty cold to Ritual Storm which has hurt on occasion.
I've also tried out some Paradoxical and Burning Oath variants and the dilution seemed to weaken several matchups without offering a strong advantage to justify the change. Punishing Fire seems interesting in an aggressive meta, but I'm not sure the recurrence is a hard enough lock to be worth the investment.
Maybe a little more niche but I won a tournament some time ago with Rune-Scarred Demons in my Oath deck. While notably weaker than Griselbrand, it's easily castable and Time Walk looping means you never give your opponent another turn to swing in for the win after activating Oath.
Rune Scarred is much more castable (if you also play with 2+ Drains) and once you activate the possiblities of autokill are very low (if you also play with Memory's Journey).
Griselbrand is pure raw power, but sometimes you want something else or he is not enough.
Side note: have anyone noticed that MTGO seems to put Griselbrand in your hand far more often than it should?
This. I've played 100 games on Oath this past two months and Griselbrand is in my opener in what feels like 50%+ of the time (anecdotal).
...contains some metrics to influence the game-play experience that they believe would somehow increase the program's profitability.
Tinfoil hat time!
I've been wondering recently what the "correct" Oath target count is. This dovetails with Brian's comments that Griselbrand seems to be in your opening hand a disproportional amount of the time.
I currently run three targets, Griselbrand, Sphinx of the Final Word (which suffers from the same issues Griselbrand does imo) and Inferno Titan. I had a conversation with Shaman Ben about number of targets this weekend. He runs three but also runs two copies of Show and Tell which can mitigate the targets in hand issue.
Putting aside other deckbuilding considerations, if you are running your typical blue-stew Oath build, what is your target count? Expanding on that, incorporating deck building considerations, do you have a higher count of flashback spells if you run two targets instead of three? Show and Tell? More "castable" creatures and/or ways to cast them (i.e. Tolarian Academy, Mana Drain)?
...contains some metrics to influence the game-play experience that they believe would somehow increase the program's profitability.
Tinfoil hat time!
Nah, just recognizing that it's a good rule of thumb to err on the side of assuming corruption in an American institution rather than lack thereof. :-)
As for the correct number and identities of Oath targets, I would say it varies, but I do not recommend less than three unless you're playing one of the terrible cards to mitigate that (Memory's Journey, Gaea's Blessing, or heaven forbid, Krosan Reclamation). That dead slot is probably just better as creature #3.
Chrome Mox, while a dreadful accelerant in many lists particularly on the control side, is surprisingly nice in Oath since you can realize some utility for the otherwise chaff cards in hand, whether they are uncastable creatures, inapplicable nuisance counters v. Shops g1, or redundant copies of Oath of Druids. I liked it a lot, especially as it can help make Tolarian Academy viable.