Story Time... Brian Kelly and I were sitting at his dining room table playing our decks for a nearby tournament the next morning. We are both on the "usual" Blue decks we tend to play, though I forget the actual decks, the actual tournament, and whether or not this was before Brian's notorious "Dromoka + 3 Force of Wills" Champs victory. It doesn't matter the exact context as I'm just trying to tell an interesting anecdote that introduces the major theoretical premise of this deck. So back to our dining table Vintage match, Brian and I both keep our 7 and playout the first couple of games. At one point, I attempt to resolve a Jace, the Mindsculptor and Brian responds with a hardcast Force of Will. I Flusterstorm back, and Brian (as those who have watched him stream can imagine) complains a bit before casting Force of Will, pitching Dig through Time. "The reason I am losing this game is because I drew two copies of Force of Torach." I smile and say, "Your problem is that you insist on playing only best Blue cards, so the cards you are pitching are always good. You need to run more bad Blue cards to pitch to your Forces." I then exiled a Spell Snare to Force Brian's Force. Now, I'm not saying Spell Snare is a "bad" card. It is however a situational counter with no obvious application in that game state. It is not Dig through Time, or Ancestral Recall, or Brainstorm, or any of the powerful, now restricted Blue cards that make Blue the best "color" in Vintage.
We play Magic in what is a very Blue format. This point comes up frequently when discussing potential restrictions and I think it is something that is worth examining. There is no question that many of the best cards in the format are Blue. Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, the Delve spells, Gush, Brainstorm, Ponder, Dack Fayden, and Jace the Mind Sculptor create a very strong incentive towards playing Blue decks. I think it is actually impossible to negate that. If you look at Legacy, the format is just as Blue. According to MTGGoldfish (which as a metagame tool is flawed due to the overrepresentation of League decks - though the most recent changes in data reporting by Wizards have yet to really impact the 1 month window that MTGGoldfish uses), Brainstorm is played in 61% of Legacy decks. In Vintage, Force of Will is played in 62% of decks. Both formats are over a majority Blue. They are so Blue in fact, the Eternal Blue Cabal can break a filibuster in US Senate. However, while there is a path in Legacy to create color parity, such a path does not currently exist in Vintage. Wizards of the Coast could chose to ban Brainstorm, Ponder, Probe, Daze, Force of Will, and any number of Blue cards until Blue decks are part of a pluralistic Legacy format. It would be unprecedented for Wizards to ban any card in Vintage based on power level or metagame balance. The result is the "Blue Skew" is very likely here to stay.
The question in Vintage then becomes, "How do we lessen the skew assuming that such a thing is desirable for the format?" The answer then is to look at what factors exacerbate the skew. And I think we've already mentioned the most severe one: Force of Will. Force of Will is a card that heavily incentivizes you to play more Blue cards. By running Force of Will, you are constraining your deck-building options towards running more Blue cards. The first Google result pulled up 18 Blue cards as the minimum number of Blue cards necessary to reliably cast Force on turn 1 (34.5%). But relating back to the conversation I had with Brian, you actually want to run more. You don't want to pitch Ancestral Recall to Force. You don't want to pitch Time Walk or Tinker or Treasure or Gush. Plus, many decks are control decks and might want to Force of Will multiple cards in the early game. That requires a higher number of Blue cards. If you look at my Mentor deck from the challenge, I am running 30 Blue cards and I can tell you definitively that Force of Will match factors into my deck building decisions. Butakov's Mentor deck is at 27. Ecobaren's PO list and PsiVen's Oath list are both at 23 Blue cards but they are not really control decks - they don't want to be casting multiple Forces during the course of a game.
Now, let me put this in bold letters: I am not advocating or campaigning for a Force of Will restriction. I merely want to draw attention to a perceived constraint of the format, one that certainly affects the diversity of the metagame. Consider Brian's Championship deck - the most common remark about it wasn't about Dromoka but about the 3 Force of Wills. LSV stated that he couldn't wait to play with the deck after he cut a Probe for a Force. And it wasn't just LSV - many Vintage players believe they should be running 4 Force of Wills in their non-combo Blue decks. How else do you stop <Insert broken turn 1 play> here? Personally, I am unsure, but much of brewing is about examining and testing these types of perceived metagame constraints. At the time Brian played his Oath deck, it was considered pretty insane not to just Oath into Griselbrand (or occasionally Emrakul - Dromoka wasn't on the radar). Brian's work with the deck broke that constraint and led to a more diverse format. So when @NBA84 wrote his deck tech on Blue Jund, I lept at the chance to run it through MTGO leagues and tinker with the particulars. To start off, I recommend reading what @NBA84 wrote and giving them an upvote to show appreciation for their time and effort. Here are the insights I gleaned playing those 33 league matches.
Chubby's Blue Jund
Down to 17 Blue cards. In my defense, Misstep is basically colorless in this deck and it's not my fault Wizards decided that Leovold needed to be the BUG Commander Tiny Leaders was missing... One thing I wanted to mention is that I reworked the mana base that NBA was using. The first round I played with the deck I ended up not liking double Blue spells like Jace in the deck. It made the deck more dependent on Deathrite Shaman for color fixing while requiring you to play multiple Volcanic Islands that make a turn 1 Deathrite harder to achieve. Now this could be an unfair criticism of the deck based on a small sample size. However, I made the decision so that I wanted to have the colored mana for any card in the deck off of two lands. Underground Sea and Taiga let you cast Abrupt Decay, Dack Fayden Kolaghan's Command, etc. Also, yes...There is a Taiga in the deck. That's why. Stop making fun of me for playing a Taiga in Vintage. There is no combination of 2 lands that lets you cast a double Blue spell. The resulting mana base was excellent and I very rarely had difficulty casting spells with the deck.
Dark Confidant is a card that gets so much better when you cut Force from your deck. I was playing it in Blue decks and it seemed to keep killing me against Shops or Pyromancer decks or really anything with creatures, which is not a good place to be in Vintage. Cutting Forces, Gush, Jace, etc... reduced the converted mana cost of the final list to 1.2. I never died to my own Bobs in those 33 matches, and actually added the Treasure Cruise late in testing because I was taking so little damage off my Bobs. There might be more CMC space to play with in this deck. Dig and Jace are problematic colorwise and the deck can't support Gush, so I'm not sure what card that would be.
Two-for-1's galore! Since you are omitting some of the more powerful and broken spells in the format, the deck is built around generating incremental value. You have to accept that occasionally the opponent Forces through a Jace, Dig, Cruise, or Ancestral. But having so many 2-for-1's lets you catch back up rather quickly. Dack, Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, Leovold, Ramunap Excavator, Sylvan Library, the restricted cards, Ancient Grudge, and Kolaghan's Command are all 2-for-1's that facilitate this game plan to a certain degree.
Cards included that were not in NBA84's list (yes, I know that many of these are cards NBA84 mentioned as being purposely excluded. I have had different results with my testing):
Dack Fayden - Dack is Whack. No, seriously...he is really really good right now. This color combination has a very difficult time dealing with Hangarback Walker since most of our removal destroys permanents. Outside of the Shops matchup, Dack provides the card selection we lack from eschewing Preordain in our list. However, my preferred mode is just stealing a random Mox. It means that even if Dack is removed, he was still a 2-for-1, and with 4 colors in the deck, it's pretty likely that Mox will work for you. Relevant synergies include fueling Deathrite Shaman, Treasure Cruise, and Ramunap Excavator, combining with Leovold to make the opponent discard a card each turn, and clearing two dead cards from the top of your Sylvan Library. While I understand that theoretically Dack lacks synergy with Null Rod, I haven't had the same experience. Against Ravager Shops, Null Rod nullifies Ravager and Ballista, which allows Dack to steal the biggest threat on the board and then hide behind it. Against non-artifact based decks, Dack lets us discard Rod and Grudge, which is a rather loose definition of synergy but has certainly been relevant in practice.
Green Sun's Zenith - Green Sun's Zenith has been very strong, even without a dedicated package for it. Functionally, it provides additional copies of DRS, Leovold, and Ramunap, and you only take 1 damage when you flip it to Bob. At the same time, it makes Black Lotus better. It's very hard to cast a turn 1 Leovold off of a Black Lotus given the three necessary colors, but it's much easier to cast a GSZ for 3. I really like the addition of this card to the deck.
Vampiric Tutor - The old saying goes that you can't draw a card if it isn't in your deck. At the same time, cards like Null Rod, Ancient Grudge, Abrupt Decay, Ramunap Excavator, and Kolaghan's Command are extremely good in different contexts. Outside of those scenarios, they tend to be very weak and you almost never want to draw more than one. Vampiric Tutor provides an additional copy of these cards while minimizing the number of dead draws. The fact that most of these cards are 2-for-1's allows you to recoup the inherent card disadvantage of Vampiric Tutor.
Abrupt Decay - Oath of Druids and Vault/Key decks are pretty prevalent in the MTGO metagame. While Abrupt Decay is pretty inefficient against Shops and can be mediocre in a lot of match ups, I wanted the singleton copy to provide an out to early Oath decks and an un-Forceable answer to early Vault/Key, since we obviously aren't going to win the Force of Will battle there. With Vampiric and Demonic Tutors along with Snapcaster to flash it back, I've enjoyed a better game 1 win rate against Oath decks.
Manglehorn - Manglehorn is good against Shops, but really good at slowing Paradoxical down. It's fetchable with GSZ, which is an obvious plus. I have played Vedalken Aethermage to have additional copies of powerful SB cards (did you know Yixlid Jailer is a Wizard?), and this interaction isn't quite as embarrassing.
Izzet Staticaster - I mentioned the trouble with Hangarback Walker but Young Pyromancer tokens can also be problematic if you can't get a Leovold to stick. I wanted some sort of sweeper in the deck but there aren't very many one-sided options. Izzet Staticaster has been good. It gets hit by Pyroblast but dodges Misstep and either shoots down Pyromancer while eating a Bolt or Swords, or stays on the board and takes over the game. Either way, that makes it a conditional 2-for-1. It's also much better against the Overseer versions of Ravager Shops than it appears at first glance, given how many of their creatures are 1/1's. The 3 toughness blocks Mishra's Factory and I have found it a strong compliment to Null Rod.
Mindbreak Trap - Not really a surprising SB inclusion, but I feel it's worth mentioning that I board in MBT against Shops, especially on the play. As a 1-of, it's not really going to prevent most broken turn 1's from the opponent, but if you have it in hand against an 8 card Shops opponent, I like your chances of nabbing at least one spell on turn 1. It also is not bad in the late game as a 4 mana counterspell for a top decked Walking Ballista or Hangarback Walker. You typically do not want to draw multiples though and I wouldn't bring in more than one against Shops. I do want to find space in the SB for a second copy.
Cards played by NBA84 but cut from my list:
Null Rod - Null Rod has not been cut from the list, but I did try it without. I haven't liked Null Rod in Xerox Control decks but have come to appreciate how much better it is in this shell. In Xerox, you still struggle to answer Shops player's creatures as you tend not to run very many of your own. In this deck, you have several creatures that match up favorably against the Shops player's counterparts once Null Rod is in play. I favor one copy in the main to find with the tutors as drawing multiples against other Blue control or Xerox decks can be game ending given how attrition-based those matchups are. You can't afford to draw multiple cards that do actual nothing in those matchups, and by "nothing" I'm not talking about the good kind of "nothing" in the flavor texts... Against PO, I hear good things about the card. I say that because despite playing several time against PO, I have yet to resolve a Null Rod against them. Part of this is variance for sure, but I would like to find a room for a 2nd copy in the SB. I don't think it's necessary against Shops and am not sure I would board in the 3rd Null Rod, but Paradoxical Outcome is proving to be the most difficult match up, right now.
Thoughtseize - Thoughtseize complicated Shops SBing and was underwhelming for me. I don't consider it very good at all against Shops as they've typically dropped their hand by the time you can cast it on the draw. It is also tempo negative on the play in that you've removed a card that they didn't have to spend mana casting. Yes, sometimes their hand is dependent on one particular card, but most of the time I've found that they just play the other two 2 mana cards in their hand on turn 1 and you wish you would have led with DRS or turn 1 Dark Confidant. Since I really wanted to board it out, the led to 8 cards for the board and several other weaker cards I wanted to board out as well (like the 3rd Leo and Cruise on the play). I judged that I wanted to keep the Missteps and Pyroblasts more than I wanted to keep the Thoughtseizes, so those were cut to make the SB'ing map cleaner It is also a poor top deck late in the game, though Dack wasn't included in NBA's list so it might be worth revisiting as Dack mitigates that downside.
Dire Fleet Daredevil - On a fundamental level, I really dislike cards that are dependent on my opponent's deck. On a practical level, Dack makes Snapcaster better and the absence of Thoughtseize makes Dire Fleet worse. Snapcaster is better late game when you opponent is setting up a Paradoxical or Delve spell, in that it lets you flashback Pyroblast to stop that. I also felt that being able to Snapcaster back removal like Nature's Claim or Bolt was more relevant than the first strike against Shops. This is the reasoning that led me to cut the Daredevil for a second Snapcaster. I am curious if anyone has had much success with Daredevil. I have not encountered it in the leagues.
Against the Field
I am hesitant to give a formula for sideboarding with decks. In many cases, you should be willing to adapt a list to a specific metagame, which means tweaking the maindeck and the sideboard as appropriate. Also, cards in the SB are contextual and if the opponent does something unexpected, it's necessary to be flexible with certain plans. To that end, I think is most valuable to give written explanations of the sideboard exchanges I would make and why I would make them.
Shops - The format's current boogeyman. Game 1 is winnable but rough. Cards like Null Rod, Ancient Grudge, and Dack Fayden are powerful and can steal a couple of games. On the other hand, you have 4 Mental Missteps and 2 Pyroblast. Sideboarding consists of sideboarding those cards out. Obvious inclusions include 2 Nature's Claims, 2 Ancient Grudges, 1 Null Rod, and 1 Manglehorn. Less obvious considerations include boarding out the 3rd Leovold (he's by far the weakest 3 drop in the deck and redundant copies are not useful) and either the Sylvan Library or Treasure Cruise. The nature of the matchup changes on the play vs on the draw. On the play, you have a turn 1 window to land a Sylvan Library or a Dark Confidant to start to pull ahead on cards. On the draw, you lack that opportunity and the opponent gets an additional attack step to lower your life total (making both Bob and Sylvan worse). The strategy on the draw is more reactive as you typically have to cast removal immediately. Bob still has use as a blocker, but Sylvan Library is much worse. At the same time, Treasure Cruise allows you to reload in the mid-game after you've bought yourself a bit of a reprieve. I know you can still flip Cruise to Bob and be quite sad, but since you have to trade off Bob pretty frequently in combat, it doesn't end up occurring very frequently. Nonobvious cards to board in include Izzet Staticaster and Mindbreak Trap, I discussed the role of these cards above. Note: Izzet Staticaster is not very good against Car Shops, which runs Chief of the Foundry over Steel Overseer and typically omits Hangarback Walker. You can board in Yixlid Jailer in those cases.
Dredge - I haven't played against Dredge yet with the deck. The game plan is simple: lose game 1 while trying to figure out which version of Dredge the opponent is playing. You might be able to steal a game with Green source into DRS + Waste/Strip on Bazaar. If they only have one dredger, you can then remove it, but this is clearly not a high percentage line. Games 2 and 3, you board out 2 Pyroblasts, Null Rod, Green Sun's Zenith (Cage shuts it off), 1 Snapcaster Mage, Abrupt Decay, 1 Ancient Grudge for the 7 obvious pieces of Dredge hate. The plan is shut of the opponent's Dredge line with Cage, Vamp for Jailer, or Demonic for Tormod's Crypt, depending on circumstance. Additionally, DRS and Wasteland can interfere with the opponent's line. If the opponent is playing Hollow One, you have Dack Fayden's and K Command as removal. Against Gurmag Angler, you are typically on the block and Bolt plan. That's the theory, but I haven't gotten to put it into practice.
Oath - The plan against Oath is to remove Oath with Abrupt Decay, or ultimate a Dack Fayden and Pyroblast whatever creature they dump into play. Neither of these is a particularly high percentage line but postboard things get better. Three Grafdigger's Cages, 2 Nature's Claims, and 1 Mindbreak Trap come in for 1 Snapcaster Mage, 1 Dark Confidant, 1 Green Sun's Zenith (again, we have Cage), 1 Null Rod,1 Ancient Grudge, and 1 Underground Sea. Why Mindbreak Trap? Occasionally, your opponent will try to hardcast something like an Inferno Titan off a Cavern of Souls, or a Carnage Tyrant. It feels really, really good to Trap such a creature. Otherwise, beating a Titan is really difficult. If my opponent is on Inferno Titan Oath, I try to attack their mana with Dack and quickly build a board presence. By the time the opponent has played Titan, I hope I am able to burn them out with Bolt, Deathrite Shaman, and Time Walk. If you are really afraid of this happening, Maelstrom Pulse is a flexible removal spell that can be played over Kolaghan's Command or Izzet Staticaster.
Paradoxical - Paradoxical has been a rough matchup. Landing a Null Rod or Leovold is key, as is blowing up artifacts with Grudge, Dack, K Command, etc, or winning the counter battle over Pyroblast. This is by far the matchup I most miss Force in. SB'ing consists of boarding out Ramunap, 2 Lightning Bolts, Abrupt Decay for Null Rod, Mindbreak Trap, and 2 Ancient Grudges. Nature Claims typically stay in the board as I find too much artifact hate leads to clunky draws that don't do anything. I would like to change the SB around to better address this matchup and will talk about that later.
Xerox and Blue Control - Cutting Forces has had very substantial payoffs in this matchup. You typically jam card into their plays, counting on your 2-for-1's to eventually overwhelm their answers. Leovold is great in the matchup, as is Dark Confidant if you can keep Young Pyromancer under control. You are pretty much preboarded for this matchup (like the rest of the field). SB'ing includes cutting Ancient Grudge and Null Rod against Mentor as these cards are obviously quite poor. You want to board in Mindbreak Trap and Izzet Staticaster to deal with tokens. Trap actually gets hardcast a lot in the late game, but you can also orchestrate some blowouts with removal, Ancestral, and Snapcaster Mage. Against Landstill, Grudge stays in to deal with Factories. I board out the Vampiric Tutor, instead. In comes Trap and Yixlid Jailer. No, Jailer doesn't shut off Crucible, Delve, or Snapcaster Mage. It is simply another threat for them to deal with.
Combo and Other decks - Against Combo, the sideboard plan is pretty much common sense. Against DPS, you board in Traps, Rod, and Manglehorn. Izzet Staticaster can deal with Goblin tokens if they have Empty the Warrens. Dacks deal with the Tinker plan, well enough in my opinion. Against 2 Card Monte, Rods, Grudges, and Claims are great. Board out cards that aren't good in the main, like creature removal such as Grudge and Lightning Bolt. Pyroblasts are also pretty weak depending on the build of DPS. If they have Preordains, I like aggressively Pyroblasting those. Key is to pay close attention to what the opponent shows you game one and board accordingly. The "other" decks I played against were Humans (felt very favorable as your creature were comparable to theirs), White Eldrazi (felt miserable as your creatures are worse than theirs), and Saturn's Aperture Science Workshops combo deck (If you die before you Rod...). The only deck that seems devoid of bad matchups statistically is Shops, so with a deck like this, you have to recognize you are going to lose to somethings. Eldrazi is one of those things, so if it is a large part of your metagame, I recommend retooling the SB with Dismembers and more Wastelands (the deck is very mana hungry so hitting a Tomb or Temple can be crippling).
I played 5 matches with the original list, but since then I have started keeping track of my results, which are below. Would this article really be complete if I didn't have a screenshot of a Google Sheet?
Small sample size so I caution against drawing conclusions from this. A 60% MWR suggests that the deck can be competitive in the field, even without Force of Wills. I would encourage others to give their own experiences with similar lists so we can create a more complete picture.
Changes to the list
I wouldn't change the main deck, but if you wanted to make a change, Kolaghan's Command was probably the weakest card in the deck. I mentioned Maelstrom Pulse as a possible substitution for an Inferno Oath heavy field, but I'm sure everyone has their own pet cards that they would like to play instead. I would change the SB to be better against Paradoxical. Unfortunately, this means being weaker against Dredge. C'est la vie.
That's...not very many cards for Dredge. I will point out that tutors, DRS, and Waste effects do contribute to the Dredge matchup. That said, if I haven't played against a deck in 33 matches, it's hard to dedicate the full 7 cards to the matchup. Your mileage and metagame might vary though, but this is the list I plan on running through a Vintage league later in the week (to stream and to record).
I hope you enjoyed this approach. Thanks again to @NBA84 for his initial work with the deck. I think there is a lot of value in getting different viewpoints on the same decklist. At the very least, it gives things to talk about that aren't directly related to the B&R list. If anyone else has an idea for a list and would like to collaborate in a similar fashion, please let me know. As always, I welcome comments, questions, criticisms, etc...
Edit: I fixed several typos. Thank you @diophan.