The best format in Vintage history ...

I'm really loving the walk through memory lane I'm getting reading through @Smmenen 's just-posted Timeline of Vintage. I'm always blown away by how generous Stephen is with his time when it comes to making things for the Vintage community.

I want to share the good vibes this gives me with a good vibes thread. Skim through the Timeline of Vintage and pick out 1 to 5 of your favorite times to play vintage and post them in this thread. Stephen already posted his list here: https://www.eternalcentral.com/schools-of-magic-the-history-of-vintage-the-best-and-worst-vintage-formats-of-all-time/ . I want to know about the times you were having the most fun being part of the Vintage community.

  • List the number and title from the Timeline, and if you want, provide a new label that resonates for you.

  • Write a few sentences or a paragraph on why you loved that format. This is subjective and that's fine. Why did you love vintage then? If your fondest memories of Vintage are fond because you bought your first piece of power or met a group in a new city, that's just as good.

  • Good vibes only. I just want to know your favorites. Don't tell other people why they're wrong for liking a format they liked. If you want a "least favorite" thread, you can start it.

My personal favorite periods of Vintage history have very little to do with the format itself, and more to do with who I was able to spend time with. My most active participation in the Vintage community was from 2003-2006 period, and I'll always look back fondly at periods 50-54 and 58 in particular.

50 - The Age of Storm (aka Beginnings)

This was shortly after I arrived at college and realized that half of the people on my floor played Magic, and several of them were interested in getting into Vintage. We really bonded over playtesting janky decks, and one friend of mine who has since passed away even won a Mox Pearl in a local tournament piloting a hacked together version of Burning Tendrils - turns out you don't really need power if you have 4x LED, 4x Burning Wish for Yawg Will.

51 - Burning Tendrils Flames Out (aka Falling in Love)

During this period I got my first taste of a big Vintage tournament, piloting Oshawa Stompy to a top 16 finish at Andy Stokinger's Dual Lotus tournament in Storrs, CT, iirc, which also happened to the first and only time I met @Smmenen - he was kind enough to sign my Memnarch after smashing me in the round 2 of that event that didn't count. This tournament was great fun, and really sealed my love of the format and the community.

52-54 - Control Slaver Emerges to The End of Type 1 (aka Give Em the Clamps)

I'll always remember the time spent helping a friend tune an Affinity list featuring the newly printed Genesis Chamber and Skullclamp, culminating with him winning a Mox with it in a local event. That deck was super sweet and did some really busted stuff with the right draws. Subsequent to that, I worked tirelessly with the help of others to try and break Arcbound Crusher, exploiting its interaction with Genesis Chamber and Affinity creatures. This ended up not being quite as good as just playing Trinisphere, but it was really fun to work on and play, and one of the co-creators did top 16 an SCG Power 9 tournament with it so there was some merit to the idea.

58 - Meandeck Gifts (aka Re-connecting)

After taking a brief break from the format and getting into the Vs System competitive scene for a bit, I circled back to Vintage. Being in Western MA at the time, I had the opportunity to connect with a great group of local players. It was great to be a part of the community again, and I'll never forget cramming onto the floor of a hotel room the night before a Waterbury with what felt like 12 other people. I remember very little of the Magic from that weekend other than @Brass-Man winning a huge game of Type 4, but I'll remember the experience forever.

The following summer I sold off my Magic collection to fund the necessities for my summer internship, and I fell out of the loop with Vintage and the community. It wasn't until after my friend passed away in 2015 that I came back to the format to help organize a Vintage tournament in his memory, and I'm really glad that I did.

last edited by revengeanceful

here's four from me:

52 "Control Slaver Emerges" - Tog vs Slaver

My very first Vintage tournaments were just before and just after Onslaught, in a local metagame that was insulated enough to not be overwhelmed by top-tier netdecks, until Eric Dupuis showed up to our store during the last days of GAT and showed us how deep the Vintage rabbit hole could go. I attended the first Vintage Champs which was won by Psychatog/"Hulk Smash", and I don't feel like I really ever got to know a deck before that one. Hulk Smash was pure distilled blue deck, with 2-3 Psychatog and the rest entirely mana, counters, draw spells.

Psychatog-based lists were popular for a while but mostly dropped off the map as blue players migrated to Control Slaver, mostly on the strength of tournament wins and articles written by Rich Shay. I'm a big fan of Control Slaver, but I still felt most powerful behind the wheel of a Tog deck. People at large were afraid of a Mindslaver'd Psychatog discarding your hand, but that was a fundemental misunderstanding of the matchup. You died when you got Mindslaver'd no matter what, so you were better off building a deck that could contain your opponent and stop them from ever doing it, and nothing contained another player like Tog. As Goblin Welder ate more of the metagame, my Tog deck got better and better as people cut their draw spells for Lava Darts and Tormod's Crypts. Tog taught me how to play a control deck, taught me how to form my own metagame opinions, and won me my first power tournaments. I played a lot of different decks during that era, but Tog was my favorite ... until Champions of Kamigawa ushered us into an era we'll talk about later ...

71 "End of the 2nd Gush Era" - Flash vs Gushbond

What a rush. Gifts Ungiven was restricted in the same announcement as Gush's unrestriction, but the Gifts deck never would have survived. Gushbond decks came out of the gate stronger than they were the first time, and players hopped from Quirion Dryads to Tarmogoyfs to Oath of Druids to Painter's Servants as the metagame approached a fever pitch. The games got shorter and shorter, but instead of eliminating decisions like Trinisphere did, the Gush-Flash dynamic was a singularity, compressing more and more complex decisions into the same turn. It was a pressure cooker that forced rapid and dramatic evolution. People began to use their 75 cards as an entirely new sort of resource. Rich Shay boarded in 8 Leylines against Flash decks; I ran Encroach, but only in postboad games on the play, to punish the streamlined strategies that were effective against me on the draw; And Manaless Dredge, of course, broke every rule of magic we had learned up to that point.

Era #71 is the culmination of this format, right before the biggest restriction upset I've lived through as a player. I picked this as my favorite because it marks the tragically short life of MS Paint, the Gush/Painter deck I played to win the very last SCG Power 9 Series event ever held. I have never built another Vintage deck where I felt so far ahead of the curve, and so overqualified to handle a field. In the top 8 of that tournament I beat a Dredge player in two games by Pyroblasting their Bazaars, I beat a control mirror after I mulliganed to three, and in the finals my opponent had turn one Orchard-Oath-Force-backup on the play, so I killed them through their counter before they got a second turn.

But a better example of the times might be an event from #68, the 2007 TMD Open/Waterbury finals between Rich Shay on Gush and Justin Timoney on Flash, when people were just starting to get an idea of how different things were going to be. The finals match took all of fifteen minutes, and for some people that was a dealbreaker, but I watched the match in person and I was completely spellbound. Justin and Rich sat down and shuffled up. Justin is a chatty, playful trash-talker most of the time, and on this day very possibly had some chemical help. He's smart player who can always find the complex lines, but sometimes plays so fast and loose that he misses them. Rich is talkative but very disciplined. He's friendly and polite but a stickler when it comes to precisely applying layers and stacking triggers. They're both fun to watch play and I'm looking forward to settling in to see their dynamic. Both players know each other well and exchange pleasantries. Both players keep conservative hands, Rich opens with land-Brainstorm-go and Justin does the same. Everyone's waiting to see how the match is going to play out, each player surrounded by excited teammates. Justin's second turn takes about 3 seconds "draw, land, pass". Rich cracks his fetch on end of the end of Justin's turn and ...

That's it. The game's over. Justin plays Flash in response, both players have a flurry of countermagic but Rich is one Mana Drain short of winning the fight, one Mana Drain he can't cast with a fetch trigger on the stack. While we were waiting for the game to start, several critical plays had already been made and the outcome was locked in place. This was not a miscalculation for Rich. Rich was among the best Vintage players in the world. This was a quarter-second lapse in judgement that Rich made and Justin didn't. The game was different now, we were playing for keeps.

54 "The End of Type 1" - Slaver vs Gifts

The first time I played Gifts Ungiven in a tournament, my opponent said "Oh cute! That's the bad Fact or Fiction people talked about on TMD, right?"
They read the card and quickly picked which two I got to keep. I reached for the pile and they said "oh wait no, if I give you those you can combo". I smiled as they picked another two and then took it back, and it slowly dawned on them that they had already lost. This exact interaction happened every match that day. The second time I played Gifts Ungiven in a tournament, they knew better. The early days of Gifts were thrilling to me. There were a thousand ways to build the deck: Charbelchers, Slavers, Welders, Damping Matrices, Tinkers, Tendrils, Merchant Scrolls. In a few months other players started catching up and creating their own variants. Smmenen and I wrote point-counterpoint articles about the critical differences between Brass Man Gifts and Meandeck Gifts. I played the same archetype for years but it never felt like the same list twice.

65 "Manaless Dredge Arrives" - The Gifts Mirror

If Psychatog was my first love, and Gush was a passionate unhealthy college fling, Gifts Ungiven is "The One"

My favorite era to play Vintage was really this huge stretch of time, starting with the printing of Gifts Ungiven, rising in a slow boil until Gifts was restricted (#67). This was a two and half year stretch where I played so many decks that I loved that it feels impossible to pick a favorite. If I had to narrow it down, it's #65, the age of the Gifts Mirror, the peak of Vintage for me.

The Gifts mirror is a delicate dance where both players are trying to hide who's leading. It requires all the discipline of Keeper player, saving their counters for the spell that matters ... all the working memory of Storm player, tracking lines 5 tutors in advance. The decision density of a deck with Brainstorm, Merchant Scroll, and Gifts Ungiven is just massive. I can vividly remember testing mirrors in Ben Kowal's living room, discovering how you could win the match by strategically starting counter wars and losing them, at just the right time. Your opponent having no idea that their Force of Will on your Ancestral Recall just cost them the game.

It's impossible for me to separate the actual games of Vintage with this time in my life, when I met so much of the Vintage community, when I took 14 hour road trips to play Vintage every weekend. For better or worse, the SCG Power Nine series was my college experience, and I spent my brain's peak math-solving years figuring out Gifts piles.

It was Keeper (and the inimitable Control Player's Bible) that got me to enter my first Vintage tournament, and it was Tog that made me feel like I was a part of the Vintage Community, but Gifts made me feel like Vintage was a part of me.

edit: if you want to add the fun headers to your post, try starting your lines with some hashtags like: # Section Title/## Subsection Title/ etc, one to four hashtags are all displayed differently

last edited by Brass Man

Wow, I came here to post the links, and they were already here! Thanks guys. And I love the fact that you've already come up with your lists.

I also really appreciate the kind words about my effort here, Andy. It was a labor of love.

Keep your lists coming!

Since I already shared my lists in the article (https://www.eternalcentral.com/schools-of-magic-the-history-of-vintage-the-best-and-worst-vintage-formats-of-all-time/ ), I will share the format numbers that key to the timline:

My best:
#5 (timeline format #13) (Ice Age Type 1)
#4 (timeline formats # 101-102) (Dack Fayden-Khans)
#3 (timeline format #60) (post-Guildpact)
#2 (timeline format # 73) (Pre-Shards)
#1 (timeline format # 46) (pre-Onslaught)

I also really liked period #50. That's an honorable mention for me.

One of the complications from this exercise, which I think shows up in Andy's and Brian Demars lists, is that some of the formats can be objectively miserable, but personally rewarding. For example, period 118, associated with the Workshop/Mentor Duopoly, was not an objectively great metagame, but I did nearly win an NYSE and got 2nd place in a Vintage challenge in that period, so it was pretty good for me personally.

Keep it coming!

Best,

Stephen

last edited by Smmenen

"GrowATog Arises" - This is when I really started to play in proxy tournaments so certainly got me hooked on Vintage. It was rare for someone to actually play any of the combo decks, or Workshops so we got to play a lot of blue mirrors. Mono Blue with Morphling and then restricted Mind over Matter+Arcanis the Omnipotent combo was fun to battle the GrowATog and Fish decks of that time.

"Lodestone & Jace Era begins" to "Delver Rising" - I know this is a long time period, but to me this was the era that I perhaps enjoyed the most. The "Lodestone" era was the only time in Vintage that I can recall, where you were truly required to play a fair deck. I recall the first question for a valid deck was "Can it beat turn 1 Lodestone?", and if your answer was no then the deck was basically unplayable. The slower format allowed me to tinker with a number of combos, and control decks that just wouldn't work in the faster iterations of the format. Landstill, and Dredge with transformed sideboards were personal favorites of mine. Nothing beats the joy of Cavern into Divining Witch into Laboratory Maniac and then answering their final removal spell with a Bazaar activation.

@vaughnbros said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

"GrowATog Arises" - This is when I really started to play in proxy tournaments so certainly got me hooked on Vintage. It was rare for someone to actually play any of the combo decks, or Workshops so we got to play a lot of blue mirrors. Mono Blue with Morphling and then restricted Mind over Matter+Arcanis the Omnipotent combo was fun to battle the GrowATog and Fish decks of that time.

"Lodestone & Jace Era begins" to "Delver Rising" - I know this is a long time period, but to me this was the era that I perhaps enjoyed the most. The "Lodestone" era was the only time in Vintage that I can recall, where you were truly required to play a fair deck. I recall the first question for a valid deck was "Can it beat turn 1 Lodestone?", and if your answer was no then the deck was basically unplayable. The slower format allowed me to tinker with a number of combos, and control decks that just wouldn't work in the faster iterations of the format. Landstill, and Dredge with transformed sideboards were personal favorites of mine. Nothing beats the joy of Cavern into Divining Witch into Laboratory Maniac and then answering their final removal spell with a Bazaar activation.

Per Andy's OP, you are referring to:

  • Period 47
  • Periods 80-99

I think it's perfectly fine to say group these periods into eras/epochs/whatever however you like.

Thanks for sharing. Keep them coming.

last edited by Smmenen

@revengeanceful said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

he was kind enough to sign my Memnarch after smashing me in the round 2 of that event that didn't count.

Oh my god, the phantom round two! What an insane event that was. I ran TPS and ended up in a t4 or t2 split. I won the advertised Black Lotus which it turned out was damaged heavily enough to be unplayable in a sleeve. I had a good time as well, but that will surely go down in history as one of the worst-run Vintage tournaments of all time. Perhaps second only to the Baldswinsville catastrophe. Someday I'll have to write that stuff down.

Ironically, my favorite time was ranked by Steve as one of the worst! My top 5 in order of best eras down.

  1. #50-56) Mirrodin block printed, up to Trinisphere’s Last Stand (Betrayers of Kamigawa – B&R Update; February 20 – March 19, 2005) [I thought the artifact-heavy theme was amazing and it was such a fun block. Crucible, Chalice, and trini made my shops/ill mask/dreadnaught decks super strong and fun (for me). Snagged some SCG P9 power during this glorious time!]

  2. #19-21) Mirage-Visions block printed [I loved playing with the topdeck tutors and one of my favorite creatures - phyrexian dreadnaught!]

  3. #11) November 2, 1994 - April 19, 1995 Fallen Empires - Balance & Fork Restricted Golden Age of Type 1 "Constructed deck" format rebranded as "Type 1" on January 10, 1995. Duelist Convocation Rules Update January 10, 1995 [This was my first entrance into magic. FE was a fun set, and I had a beastly thrull/breeding pit/lord of the pit deck!]

  4. #23-26) Tempest-Exodus block printed [I really liked wasteland (though I hate it now), because it was bomb in my stone rain/sinkhole deck. But this block was amazing mainly for one word - SLIVERS!]

  5. #127-128) WAR and MH1 printed. [While some broken additions were printed, I felt this was a sweet spot after mentor's restriction, but before Core 2020 where deck diversity blew wide open]

@brass-man said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

@revengeanceful said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

he was kind enough to sign my Memnarch after smashing me in the round 2 of that event that didn't count.

Oh my god, the phantom round two! What an insane event that was. I ran TPS and ended up in a t4 or t2 split. I won the advertised Black Lotus which it turned out was damaged heavily enough to be unplayable in a sleeve. I had a good time as well, but that will surely go down in history as one of the worst-run Vintage tournaments of all time. Perhaps second only to the Baldswinsville catastrophe. Someday I'll have to write that stuff down.

lol, yeah that event was a total disaster, but I had a great time anyway. Now I'm curious about the Baldwinsville catastrophe.

@revengeanceful It was a tournament held during a snowstorm in an abandoned shopping mall in upstate New York. The advertised prize support was power nine to the top 8. The TO gave everyone IOUs and then left the country. It probably sounds like I made all of that up.

Ok, so instead of polishing up my final essays for the last week of school, I’m writing about Vintage. I’m a horrible person. Here are my three favorite Vintage metagames: (Where I had the most success)

66 – The Mean Deck Metagame

I think there are actually some errors with the timeline with regards to 66-67. Flash breaks out BEFORE Gifts Ungiven is restricted. I know this because I won the SCG Power 9 event around this time with Ritual Gifts. I tailored my deck specifically to combat Flash combo. I mean, I might have played Meandeck Gifts if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to be better against combo by using cards such as Duress and a faster combo on the back of Dark Ritual/LED. I only started playing Vintage a few months prior to this, immediately after the Time Vault re-errata. I believe this moment in Vintage history is one of the best because Brainstorm was unrestricted and there were many viable decks and archetypes. It's what drew me into Vintage after all.

68 – 2nd Gush Era Begins

This was the first Gush era for me. GAT was a fun deck. I liked playing against Shops. I liked the mirror. I made a Gush storm deck and lost in the top 16 break of Waterbury that year to Bomberman. (A deck I went 13-1 in testing against the night before) It was good times. I would love to go back to this moment. By the end of it, I was on a 3 Dryad, 3 Goyf, 1 Psychatog breakdown. I feel like that ended up being the most versatile configuration.

86 – East Coast Wins

Obviously I’m going to list this because I came up with that name. At that time there was friendly rivalry between the regions of the U.S. and I just named the deck East Coast Wins as a snarky nod toward that. I was returning to the game after a hiatus and I returned to find that Espresso Shops was the best deck and no one knew what to do about it. The blue decks of the time were Jace control decks, but wait a minute, Gush was unrestricted and nobody was playing it? That seemed to be a huge miscalculation, so I made a blue deck with Gushes, using all the other good cards in the Vintage cardpool (Jace, Time Vault, Tinker) and the rest is history. My friend and I split the finals with the same 75 in June and we went on to dominate the rest of the summer with the same deck. I actually started with Spell Pierces but swapped them for Mental Missteps because Joe Brown kept beating me with Mystic Remora. (No one was playing Misstep before this point) I fell short in the Vintage championship as the metagame evolved to something new exactly in August (enter Slash Panther, which seems to be forgotten from the timeline as well). Slash Panther had a huge impact on this championship. Because of Slash Panther, the Gush/Jace decks with Dark Confident performed the best.

128 – Karn Combo Moment

I really liked this meta. Despite all the Narsets, I had a lot of success with Doomsday against Karn decks. Then I discovered BUG and consequently had a very high win percentage against most of the field. It’s a shame they had to restrict Karn/Forge and take away all my fun so quickly.

@desolutionist said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

Ok, so instead of polishing up my final essays for the last week of school, I’m writing about Vintage. I’m a horrible person. Here are my three favorite Vintage metagames: (Where I had the most success)

That's awesome Shawn. Thanks for sharing. I hope you got a nice little break from school with this trip down memory lane.

66 – The Mean Deck Metagame

I think there are actually some errors with the timeline with regards to 66-67. Flash breaks out BEFORE Gifts Ungiven is restricted.

You are correct, but the timeline notes section (and explanatory notes a the bottom) explains this.

The notes section explains that Flash errata occurred on May 15th. (Flash is issued errata with the Oracle update for Future Sight (5/15/2007). )

Gifts was Restricted effective July 1st. So the "Flash Breaks Out" metagame from May 20-June 19th, is the metagame in which Flash was powered-up AND Gifts was unrestricted.

Sorry if the timeline is confusing on this. But when a restriction occurs, it is indicated in the notes section of the period preceding it, because it usually concludes and book-ends that period.

I hope that helps.

Best,

Stephen

Wait a minute. Was Mentor unrestricted for 2,5 years?

last edited by Griselbrother

@griselbrother Yep. And during a large part of that window, Git Probe and Gush were unrestricted too.

@evouga said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

@griselbrother Yep. And during a large part of that window, Git Probe and Gush were unrestricted too.

I had completely forgotten that it was unrestricted for so long. It should have been restricted within a month and then perhaps we could still have Gush among us. Mentor is such a disaster of a card, though I did actually enjoy Menendian's and Cron's Outcome Mentor deck that they brought to the Worlds one year.

last edited by Griselbrother

@griselbrother said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

@evouga said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

@griselbrother Yep. And during a large part of that window, Git Probe and Gush were unrestricted too.

I had completely forgotten that it was unrestricted for so long. It should have been restricted within a month and then perhaps we could still have Gush among us. Mentor is such a disaster of a card, though I did actually enjoy Menendian's and Cron's Outcome Mentor deck that they brought to the Worlds one year.

That was the most insane deck I've ever played to go just 5-4 or whatever my final record was.

alt text

@smmenen

That’s actually a well designed deck. Probably just a land or two too many. But also too vulnerable to Null Rod. Why didn’t you just play Gush at this event?

@desolutionist said in The best format in Vintage history ...:

@smmenen

That’s actually a well designed deck. Probably just a land or two too many. But also too vulnerable to Null Rod. Why didn’t you just play Gush at this event?

I remember Steve and Kevin discussing the deck in depth in one their podcasts. Basically the idea behind the deck was to be the one who Mentored the hardest. I actually played the deck a lot because it was so much fun, and I also made a few other version sof it - one with Gush instead of Thoughtcast. I don't really recall which version was the best. I'm sure Steve can explain their reasoning behind not playing Gush.

The timeline has been updated FYI

https://www.eternalcentral.com/timeline-of-vintage/

A number of errors have been corrected and a lot of additional links have been added. I think that’s about it for now thank you so much for your interest in this!

I also updated some labels and a bunch of other tweaks.

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