@mediumsteve Engineered Explosives is an intriguing option. It does sound good against tokens, Cage, even Containment Priest or Jace in a pinch.

I've tested Jace extensively and you are right that it gives the deck an out to large flying blockers (though in practice Emrakul and Marit Lage are rather rare, at least in the online metagame). However in my experience this advantage is not worth the dis-synergy between Jace and Orchard. It feels really bad to resolve Jace onto a board of 2+ Orchard tokens, and of course the situation is even worse if the opponent has also played some of their own creatures. Jace is horrible vs Shops, Dredge, Storm, and creature aggro strategies. It shines in the blue matchup, where it serves as an additional must-counter threat, but even here it is weak vs opposing tokens, expensive, and slow. I prefer to dedicate the slot to additional countermagic and disruption.

I'll have to read this more thoroughly when I get out of work, but thanks for posting this.
Oath is my deck of choice more often than not and it's nice to see it getting some respect

@Islandswamp Yes, I was a bit dismayed by the dismissiveness of some of the VSL commentators towards the deck. Oath is not optimally-positioned in every metagame, but it is a versatile and powerful strategy that always deserves respect.

@evouga said:

@Islandswamp Yes, I was a bit dismayed by the dismissiveness of some of the VSL commentators towards the deck. Oath is not optimally-positioned in every metagame, but it is a versatile and powerful strategy that always deserves respect.

Chris Pikula has regarded Oath as "not a real deck" for as long as I can remember. I can recall him saying it in earshot of me at an event in what was probably 2010, then I beat him a round or two later with Oath. Needless to say, he was not pleased.

I'm not really surprised to hear that his opinion is shared by other VSL commentators though.

Nice primer though, I'm sure Greg will weigh in at some point.

@evouga without reading the entire thing since I'm at work, I REALLY like the formatting for this. I plan to write a Delver2016 primer shortly, and will most likely steal it. Thanks for the hard work.

@evouga However, you're Mirror sideboarding is just plain wrong!

You absolutely ALWAYS do the following
-3 Oath of Druids

The card is dead. You never want it (I keep 1 to tutor for, in case my opponent boarded all his out as well). You NEVER want to play an Oath just to find out your opponent has drawn more Oarchars than you have.

@Soly how do you plan to win, without Oath? Oath is a safe play, once you have established Orchard superiority. Show and Tell is almost never safe (unless you can clear a path with e.g. Thoughtseize).

@evouga I always end up playing the Control game. I win a lot of times by becoming Spirit Aggro post-board.

You can't always rely on Orchard superiority especially if your opponent sides in Wastelands, which while really uncommon, is something I've seen.

I used to occasionally play Oath decks WITHOUT Show and Tell and I'd still sideboard out 3 Oaths. You rely on your opponent being bad and keeping his in, while you're busy drawing non-blank cards in those spots post-board.

@Soly there has been a wasteland in my sideboard for the last two events I played oath in. Good in the mirror, comes in against dredge and shops too. I've even considered using them to go after certain colors to keep people off of Gush, Abrupt Decay, or anything else important.

@Islandswamp Even so, I'd rather sandbag extra orchards and let them play the Oath. I know I'm not alone in this thought process.

Thanks for writing up this primer on Fenton Oath! Like many aspects of Vintage, there's a 'wild west' feel to deck/archetype theory and primers like these really help establish a baseline for each archetype, similar to the DTB and established deck section for Legacy at the mtgthesource.

I love this deck and exclusively played this deck for a full year in paper tournaments (NE weekly tournaments, NYSE, Champs etc.). I know nothing about online so here are my 2 cents based on paper games only:

LSV actually played a similar list at vintage champs last year, he was 7-1 before having to drop to catch a flight. So ignore Pikula, oath is real deck and can be a great choice for some metagames.

This is not the best JTMS deck for sure, but like you alluded to, the 'brainstorm' effect is absolutely insane and necessary for this deck. I've been extremely happy casting JTMS while giving my opp a token, because I still get 3 brainstorms out of it before it dies, AND Jace can always tick up. JTMS is also by far the best card in the mirror, so I'd be very reluctant to not play at least 1, usually 2, and have been happy with it.

On a note re: the mirror - Yes traditionally you sideboard out 3 oath, and 2 show and tell. You win the following way: After establishing orchard dominance, tutor for your single oath, hardcasting griselbrand eventually or stick a JTMS. If you play vault key, that is another way to win obviously.

My main issue with the deck has to do with consistency. There are an upward of 6 cards (3 grisel, vault/key/memory's journey) that do almost nothing on their own in the deck, and having any of them them in your opening hand (50% of the time by my estimate) feels bad. You can get lucky and even spike a tournament or 2 with great draws, but eventually the variance will catch up to you.

The other issue is containment priest. While abrupt decay is a great answer, mentor just does not give you enough time to find the decay due to how quick of a clock it is.

While winning game 1 is easy, 2 and 3 becomes nightmares IF your opp is well prepared. When ppl are unprepared against oath they get crushed.

Completely anecdotal, but fun anyways: Last weekend, I played against Greg Fenton and he is on the play with the following draw: lotus, recall, oath x2, orchard, land, flusterstorm. I beat that god draw with a turn 1 aegis of gods plus double force of will hand. If the game dragged on longer, he might have found an abrupt decay, but because my deck has more velocity, I was able to find a containment priest before that happened and seal the game completely while he just sat there playing draw go for awhile.

Thank you for writing this outstanding primer to my deck, Evouga.

I'm amazed at how much consideration, care, and fantastic detail you put into every aspect of it. You took a lot of words straight out of my mouth.

I'm only just seeing this for the first time, but I plan on adding in some anecdotes, fun facts, and extra details to your thread later in the day or week. I'm looking forward to reading the entire article.

@hankzhong I was off of Jace for a while. I went from two in the main, to one and one Tezzeret, to one Jace TMS, and then to none and one in the SB, and then none for quite some time.

I am now back to running one Jace, because I think it's right again. The reason I wasn't running it is that I wanted my deck to care the most about the first few turns, and plowing through an Oath, But now Oath has picked back up online, and as you mentioned, Jace is SUPER important in the mirror. Without Time Walk or Vault, you can't even beat a Jace much of the time. So having one to put the hurt on mirror opponents is key.
Also, being able to put an Oath target back into your deck never hurts.

@Soly I side out SOME Oaths, but usually I leave in two. Your point makes perfect sense though. I will also not side out Show and Tell all the time either, it depends if I'm playing Thoughtseize or not. If I am on Thoughtseize, there's a decent chance I can safely cast Show and Tell. Also, if you have enough mana and life, it's totally possible to Show Griselbrand and draw into either a Vault Key combo or your own Jace or Echoing Truth (which I do sometimes run). It's not pretty, but it can work.

I've had several games where my opponent had enough of an army of tokens to potentially race me, but I've used Show and Tell to play a second, untapped Griselbrand to block with, denying my opponent the chance to race. It doesn't always come up, but in games against Mentor or Pyromancer it can save your life.

Your matchup analysis of Dredge is wrong. You seem to assume that Oath naturally trumps Dredge, but it's the reverse. Turn one Oath gives you some chance to steal game one, so there's that, but Dredge is easily capable of overpowering Griselbrand. Dredge can race Griselbrand without even casting any spells by just using Ichorid and Bridges, and Oath has no way to clear Bridges. In addition, Dredge can Flashback Therapy to kill the tokens you give them, buying them more time. I'll grant you that Oathing into Elesh Norn is a winning position, but Dredge can beat a resolved Oath in several ways. The 1 turn window you grant them by passing turn before you Oath can likely be enough for them to win the game with Dread Return. Also, Dredge naturally packs their sideboards with a huge myriad of enchantment removal that just so happens to take out Oath. Your 3 sideboard cards aren't close to enough to sway the post-board percentage back into your favor. You might occasionally draw that opening hand of Orchard, Mox, Mox, Oath, Nihil Spellbomb, but that isn't going to happen very often.

Am I criticizing your deck? No. Pick your battles. You can't have a deck that beats everything. Sacrificing your Dredge matchup might be the correct thing to do, but don't fool yourself into believing you're above 50% against Dredge.

I may not have made this point clear in my original posts, but the matchup analyses are based not on armchair theorycrafting or wishful thinking, but on hundreds of games played in the MTGO Vintage 2-man paid queue. I am quite happy with the Dredge matchup.

It may be that the online Dredge pilots are uncharacteristically poor, but that has not been my impression. In any case, if you have an account I'm on MTGO most evenings, and am always happy to playtest against Dredge.

@evouga "Armchair theorycrafting?" Well, I like my armchair, but my reasoning was sound. I do have an account on MTGO and I'd be happy to test with you. Let's not make this about proving something, though.

@DeaTh-ShiNoBi said:

@evouga "Armchair theorycrafting?" Well, I like my armchair, but my reasoning was sound.

Wasn't suggesting otherwise (simply assuring you that I wasn't purely theorycrafting), though I don't agree with all of your points. For instance, while it's true that Cabal Therapy can be used to remove a token already on the battlefield during the main phase, the "usual" time to donate tokens is the opponent's EOT, and these cannot be removed. (Darkblast used to appear occasionally but is currently out of vogue in lists I've seen).

last edited by evouga

@evouga Cabal Therapy to clear the token won't buy more than a turn, but it will stop Orchard, Mox, Oath, go. Sometimes the Oath player can't avoid tapping the Orchard for mana.

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