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.

Hi evouga, this query is specifically with regards to Yawgmoth's Will, do you think its still necessary to include this card in a very tight list such as this? the card's application is only attractive post oath, which means that you're already winning at that point. I have been running a similar list for a year now and would like to know how other oath pilots justify the inclusion of this card, considering that there's already alot of dead draws in the opener with this deck. Below is the list that I'm currently working on:

1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mana Crypt
1 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
1 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Island
1 Forest
2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
4 Forbidden Orchard

1 Voltaic Key
1 Time Vault
3 Griselbrand

3 Mental Misstep
2 Flusterstorm
2 Misdirection
4 Force of Will
2 Thoughtseize

4 Oath of Druids
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Brainstorm
1 Impulse
1 Memory's Journey
1 Dig Through Time
1 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Time Walk
3 Show and Tell

1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Trinisphere
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Nature's Claim
2 Pithing Needle
4 Leyline of the Void

@vanquish Yawgmoth's Will can win without Oath. Also, just having it in your deck gives you a lot of ability to simply lock up the game, post Oath. Considering Oath to be an auto win might be a mistake. Or not. I'll let others decide that. Remember that Yawgmoth's Will can win through Containment Priest.

last edited by DeaTh-ShiNoBi

@vanquish said:

Hi evouga, this query is specifically with regards to Yawgmoth's Will, do you think its still necessary to include this card in a very tight list such as this? the card's application is only attractive post oath, which means that you're already winning at that point.

Yes, of course you need Yawgmoth's Will. It's by far the easiest way to win once you actually get your Griselbrand into play. Otherwise you have to rely on Memory's Journey shenanigans or just praying you don't mill your Time Walk or vault/key.

Griselbrand does not read "You win the game." You actually have to play it out.

@vanquish @DeaTh-ShiNoBi

Yawg as a litmus test of Control vs Combo Oath builds
I play a lot of Oath, and ran Yawg for a long time, for many of the same reasons listed here. (Obviously, since its a really powerful card and can just win the game when both players are just in top-deck-mode.) But I dropped it last summer for a Show and Tell. (Full disclosure, I'm running a much more controlly version of Oath with Standstill, with a huge density of counterspells.) The reason I finally dropped it, was that I found that in a lot of games, the reason I was in topdeck mode to begin with, was because the opponent had already landed a Cage, taking me off the main win condition for the time being. In those cases Yawg is really bad. So after some testing I just did a calculation, are there more games where I win because I found Will, when I wouldn't have won otherwise... or are there more games where I'm losing when I find Will, and I'm losing in such a way that Will is bad and doesn't help.

For my deck, I calculated straight up that there were more games of the second kind, mainly because Oath is just so strong and consistent that if the opponent doesn't do something to either lock you down or kill you, then you probably just kill them. With the build I run, that can also mean just getting rediculously far ahead in cards. (Any deck running blue anything can win that way, but the point here is that more control Oath decks, with more card drawing and higher counter density actually do it with frequency, as a main strategy.) I also noticed that the bulk of the games I lost involved 1 of 2 paths to defeat, either the deck just killed me with some insane broken opener (Storm or Dredge)... or the deck locked me out hard in the first couple turns (Shops mainly, or sometimes Hatebear or some Gush variant running Cage or Priest). In the vast majority of those games I lost, Yawg would not have helped. In many cases it would have been totally dead due to Cage, or Sphere effects (even 1 can make it pretty useless), or because I was just dead and scooping up my cards to Storm or to Dredge that ripped my hand to pieces. I really didn't see that many games where I felt like Yawg would have made a big difference.
(Now there are certainly games where you do get to show off your Yawg. Usually this is Oathing into a Griselbrand and drawing a ton of cards and Time Walking and then Yawging back the Time Walk and just blowing some dude totally away, but I ultimately decided that while being able to do that was convenient, I would have won the vast majority of those games anyway, either by Oathing a second time (I only run 1 Gris and other creatures, so no worries about legends rule), or just drawing a bunch of cards and counterspelling the whole world until I beat the guy to death over a couple turns. Obviously there I times when I would have killed someone outright with Yawg, and then they barely kill me with something else because I let them untap, but honestly, those are really really rare. (We think they are a lot more common than they actually are... because this it plane crash psychology. We perceive that flying is more dangerous than driving because when it goes wrong it goes spectacularly wrong so it sticks in our minds.) I found that for my build, the value of Show and Tell being blue and making big creatures in my hand be live, outvalued the power of Yawg. Also, I run Cruise, and Cruise is not friends with Yawg, but is friends with Force of Will.

I am not saying, that Yawg is bad or shouldn't be included. If you are running an Oath build that is a "combo deck with control elements" then yes, I would think Yawg would be great. Because really what you want to do is just slam threats and blow the other guy off the side of the world as fast and hard as you can (A really good strategy. I really mean that too. Just be the first guy to punch the other guy in the face, is a really good way to win vintage magic games). For those decks that are running 4 Oaths, and multiple Show and Tell, and Gris into a ton of cards to try to kill before they untap, Yawg is awesome. My read is that as there are more and more control elements introduced to Oath, Yawg gets worse and worse and worse until the point where it should be cut for something that is at least blue. So really, I think the question is, where do you fall on the continuum between speed and control. Since this is the Fenton Oath thread, I would think that Yawg is probably an include in most of these builds. But I really encourage Oath players to count games they win and lose, and do postmortems on how those things happened. Just because you played Yawg and won, doesn't mean you won because you played Yawg. And if you lost, would Yawg have changed that, and by how much percent. If you are asking those questions, good choices are going to get made about deck construction.

@Topical_Island I completely agree with your take on Yawg will's role in the deck. To broaden the topic, I would really love a Frank Karsten-type of analysis on the percentage of time you need to have 'something else' to win once you have oathed into Griselbrand, because there are a few other cards I'm not fond of in the deck: the vault key combo and memory's journey. They are all do nothings that I hate to see in my opening hand, similar to yawg will, except way worse, because they are also awful top decks.

To fix this issue, I came up with a list that replaces the vault key combo with an additional S&T and omniscience. Then I replaced 1 griselbrand with 1 emrakul. S&T + omniscience both pitch to force of will, and both have applications pre-oath and post oath. Pre-oath, omniscience is another S&T target, S&T is another enabler for griselbrand/emrakul/omniscience. Post oath, it functions similar to vault key as an "instant kill" via show&tell + omniscience + emrakul.

If the above idea sounds familiar, it's because Montolio (Andy) won the recent power 9 challenge with my list. We tested the deck a few times and felt that the only weakness is oathing up emrakul when you really need griselbrand - e.g. when playing against storm, when facing a horde of lethal mentor tokens etc. Another issue is if you oath the omniscience into the graveyard, then you don't have a instant win anymore unless you play the awful memory's journey. But in most games, oathing into griselbrand then emrakul and vice versa on consecutively turns generally seals the deal.

other issues - S&T into omniscience can just do nothing since this deck has mediocre draw engines. the deck wasn't very good even with Dig unrestricted and it's even worse now.

@mediumsteve Honestly, this is why I switched to Standstill hybrid... which if you've seen the video, LSV concludes "Isn't exactly peanutbutter and chocolate", but I absolutely love it. I would do a primer on it but it isn't really "mine"... (I know someone else started playing it on MTGO.) But it has so many lines. It basically has all the important cards of both Oath and Standstill combined, which believe it or not there really is room for. (4 factories, 4 Standstill, 4 Oath, 4 Orchard, 12 counterspells and a Decay, plus the 3 creatures...) I find it an incredibly durable deck. It has something like a 2% smaller chance of playing Oath with Orchard on turn 1 when compared to the normal Oath decks (this because it runs 1 fewer mox), and it has a ton of land which basically means it just runs over Shops decks. (I honestly think this is what everyone should have been playing before Golem's restriction. Mishra's factory vs Golem is great, and by turn 4 or 5 you have an Energy Flux in play a lot of the time.

@Topical_Island I apologize if I am crediting incorrectly, but I believe Josh Potucek made that deck.

@DeaTh-ShiNoBi No I think you're totally right. Is that the guy who started playing it in dailies online? I really don't know where it came from, other than my kitchen table because I didn't want my wife to keep ripping me with Shops, and then a version of it showed up on mtgtop8 and I about crapped myself. That's the history that I know. But I've heard Potucek named several times. So good for him. Cool tech to be sure.

@Topical_Island I am unsure if the guy who brought it to MTGO is Potucek.

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