[Developing] Budget Vintage: Unpowered White Hatebears

7. 'Current' Metagame Analysis (Last Updated August 1, 2016)

The Sad News. Due to the matchup against Mentor, I don't think this deck, or other Monowhite Hatebears, has a real fighting chance in the current meta. In the past week I have been tweaking the deck to shore this matchup up, but around 1/2 of the matches I played against were Mentor, and of those I won maybe 1/10. According to TCDecks.net, as of 8/1/16, Mentor is the top performing archetype in paper Magic with 8 top 8s in the last 30 days. I checked out the last 30 events that included Mentor, and 27/30 decks made it to the top 8. According to MtgGoldfish.com, as of 8/1, roughly 21% of the MTGO metagame currently runs Monastery Mentor. This is Mentor's moment, and short of a new printing or new bannings in the format, it looks to be there for quite some time.

I have tried several budget configurations to help shore this matchup up but all have been varying degrees of unsuccessful. Mentor's ability to stop our plays, while simultaneously adding significant power/toughness on the board with every Counterspell and Swords to Plowshares is far too powerful for a monowhite deck to handle. Nearly every other matchup is either a toss-up, really good for us, or good enough that, under the right circumstances and making decent plays, we can overcome. An example would be decks that run Pyromancer. Pyromancer comes out a turn earlier but the assault generally gets halted/delayed by dropping one 2/2 on your side, and trying to keep pace with a Pyro deck is much easier. They are also less likely to run maindeck Swords to Plowshares.

Our deck is also tied to Mentor's success/failure. Oddly enough, even though the strategies are very different between the decks, any likely new printings that could help our deck also have the potential to help their deck. Mentor's dominance right now also means that decks run a lot of hate specifically against Mentor, some of which directly affects our game plan, like boarding in Dread of Night and Sulfur Elemental, which can outright kill Thalia 1.0, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Dryad Militant/Judge's Familiar, and Vryn Wingmare, and put us off those plays until they're dealt with.

Until something drastic happens to the Vintage metagame (and I think that the meta is currently pretty stable, with Mentor at the top), be prepared to lose some rough/unfun matches, or switch to a new deck. I'll keep working on this deck with the full knowledge that nothing's going to get better or worse until something gets banned or someone figures out how to nuke the strategy well enough that Mentor becomes a bad deck to play.

8. How to Defeat this deck

Fetching basics is a misplay. Don't do it. I have seen many players somehow equate Ghost Quarter with Wasteland and if I managed to GQ one of their lands and they get a Basic, I'm just doing it to keep them off of a color. With all your basics in play, my Path to Exiles become drawback-less Plows and my Ghost Quarters become Strip Mines. Keep them in your deck so you don't fall behind, and you might actually get ahead curve.

Learn to effectively play with an Ethersworn Canonist/Eidolon of Rhetoric on the battlefield. It gets scarier when Grand Abolisher is out, too. Eidolon, if you're playing Mentor especially, is a rough card. On it's own, it can limit the amount of tokens generated by each Mentor to one-per-turn. You also run a lot of creature removal which becomes dicey. If there's an Eidolon and you need to get rid of it, do yourself a favor and wait to cast the Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, etc until I have put a play on the stack. Responding to anything with a removal spell is 100% the way to do it, and I can't count the number of times a Mentor player will try and kill something during their turn using a Plow, and I have a Mental Misstep, and you can't respond to the misstep with your own. This interaction is weird, but it gets even weirder with a Grand Abolisher in play, essentially in two turns (mine and yours) you will only be able to use 1 spell. My suggestion is to counter Grand Abolisher if you can, or get rid of it as soon as possible.

Sideboard in any hate you might have against Mentor. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but Sulfur Elemental is pretty harsh to an opponent’s unpowered white weenie deck.

Removal is definitely key. If you are a deck that is light on removal and consistently dies to Hatebears decks, add cheap removal to your SB. If you’re playing Storm, you definitely need to think of spells like this as part of your Storm combo. If you’re not playing storm, are playing red, hate Null Rod, consider adding Ingot Chewer. Much of the protection this deck relies on is Misstep, which doesn’t work against Chewer.

Play planeswalkers. Yup. Until they print a Swords to Plowshares for planeswalkers in white, they will always be rough. Their abilities get around Thalia, they aren’t affected by Null Rod/Stony Silence, and they allow you to have a play every turn in an otherwise locked-down game.

Use Jace’s bounce ability. This is extremely annoying, especially since the deck is generally a 1-play-per-turn deck. Expect to have Jace absorb a few attacks after that.

If you’re playing a deck that scoops to Null Rod/Stony Silence, contemplate adding Surgical Extraction to the SB, especially if the metagame favors Null Rod decks (which I believe it currently does).

Be careful with fetchland openers. Or at the very least, play and crack them ASAP. Arbiter can shut off fetches and hurt your manabase as a result. You can get away with being on the play and depending on 2 fetches. After turn 2 there is a high likelihood an opponent will have Arbiter or will draw Arbiter and be able to play it. You can also trick them into thinking Arbiter is a great play if you use fetches, saving you a Thalia or Spirit of the Labyrinth turn.

Use Force of Will judiciously. This is a given, but it really matters here, especially if your only counters are Forces. Someone who knows the deck well can put me off the most hateful bears using Force of Will, someone who Forces a scary-looking creature might be surprised by what comes next. If your deck has a lot of counterspells, it’s a good idea to save one in your hand for Grand Abolisher, which will blank all of your counterspells until it’s dealt with.

Prepare to deal with Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. If you’re running Misstep and have creature-based wincons, hold Misstep for the eventual removal spell.

If you’re playing Storm, go off on turn 1 or 2.

If you're playing a Mentor deck, don't worry, you got this.

If you’re playing on MTGO, shut off Arbiter BEFORE you try to fetch or search. The interface won’t prompt you to pay and you will throw away a land/tutor.

Cards that get around Spirit of the Labyrinth:
Scroll Rack
Dig Through Time
Any card that says “put X into your hand” instead of “draw”

More to come here too.

9. Things to try

Non-Budget cards (Kataki, War’s Wage, Wasteland) - these are both obviously good in this deck.

Thalia 2.0 - Can’t wait to test her.

Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void - With an Enlightened Tutor list, I think these would be fun cards to test.

10. Things I've Tried

Black Vise This card is good, but the slots are better given to something else. In a list that relies heavily on Enlightened Tutor and gets rid of Arbiter, I think it's a worthwhile card to have in the SB if there's room. I've had it win games, but also it's been dead. One thing that's good is you can redirect the damage to Planeswalkers if they play any, and I think this card is very good against Jace.

Magus of the Moat Never comes down. The SB slot is better given to something else.

11. Why U No?

Stoneforge Mystic/Battterskull/Jitte
Doesn’t combo with Leonin Arbiter. Equipment gets switched off by Null Rod/Stony Silence. Drawing Batterskull is terrible, and this deck needs great topdecks and as few dead draws as possible, least of all ones that are self-imposed and built into the main deck. Also, Batterskull is about 30 bucks online, Jitte is 30 bucks in paper.

Cavern of Souls
Doesn’t easily fit into the ‘budget’ category. Also this deck has too many different creature types for Cavern to be useful. There’s no need to fix mana, since the deck is monocolor. It’s almost more important to get safe land drops instead of ensuring our plays don’t get countered, and Cavern is vulnerable to Wasteland.

Karakas
Gives an opponent something to do with Wasteland, which is pretty bad. Haven’t found a good reason to include it, maybe if a build had Kataki there would be more to do with the bounce effect, but I’ve found that a basic Plains is just better.

Thorn of Amethyst
The thing about Thorns on legs is that the cost doesn’t go up for successive Thorn effects. The number of times I’ve had to hold a really effective Null Rod play in my hand because Thalia/Wingmare have priced it out of reach are enough to come to the conclusion that more Thorns aren’t the way to go.

12. Sample Maindecks

Intro List:

“Bears”, 1 CMC:
2x Mother of Runes
2x Dryad Militant
2x Judge’s Familiar

“Bears” 2-3 CMC:
2x Grand Abolisher
3x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3x Leonin Arbiter
3x Vryn Wingmare
3x Ethersworn Canonist
3x Spirit of the Labyrinth
3x Phyrexian Revoker
4x Leonin Relic-Warder

Artifacts
3x Null Rod

Spells:
4x Mental Misstep
4x Path to Exile

Lands:
1x Strip Mine
4x Ghost Quarter
14x Plains

This list has no mana acceleration and does a pretty good job at giving you amazing topdecks. Synergy is near 100%, since there's no artifacts switched off by Null Rod. This list also has no Enlightened Tutors, which has two effects... One is that Leonin Arbiter becomes extremely good, and two is that good cards need to be 4-ofs since there's no way to fish them out and they must be drawn off the top. Not necessarily a great list, but it is very very consistent and very easy to play.

Quick List

Creatures
2x Mother of Runes
2x Dryad Militant
2x Ethersworn Canonist
2x Spirit of the Labyrinth
3x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2x Grand Abolisher
4x Leonin Relic Warder
2x Phyrexian Revoker
2x Eidolon of Rhetoric
3x Vryn Wingmare

Artifacts/Enchantments
4x Null Rod/Stony Silence
1x Ghostly Prison

Spells
2x Enlightened Tutor
4x Mental Misstep
2x Path to Exile
1x Swords to Plowshares

Accel
3x Simian Spirit Guide
1x Lotus Petal

Lands
1x Strip Mine
4x Ghost Quarter
13x Plains

This list allows for a little bit more flexibility. With the Enlightened Tutors searching for things, this deck can make use of 1-ofs to a much greater effect and essentially diversify the deck without sacrificing a whole lot. One tradeoff is that Leonin Arbiter had to go, it became a liability in regard to Enlightened Tutor, and eliminating it made Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile much less good. This deck needs 4 Wastelands, which unfortunately aren't budget.

13. Upgrade Sequence

This deck is designed as a budget deck, but some readers might already have a few Vintage cards, or might want to work on acquiring more, or simply want to make the deck better. Here's some steps you can make to improve the deck:

Replace any Null Rods with Stony Silence. Null Rods have a tendency to get removed quickly, and Stony Silence is just better because less Vintage-played cards deal with it. This is an immediate upgrade if you went the Null Rod route.

Add Grafdigger's Cage, or even better, Containment Priest to the SB Both of these cards are extremely good against Dredge and Oath. One thing you need to decide, really is if you're playing this deck to help you get into Vintage, or if you're a big fan of Hatebears, Humans, or White Eldrazi. Priest is far better in these decks than Cage, but Cage is a better purchase because it easily goes into decks that don't run white.

Add Wastelands. Wasteland plays directly into the mana-denial strategy, and has many good targets in Vintage. If you have a full playset, I'd consider cutting two basics and two Ghost Quarters to make room for two more land destruction effects in the mainboard. If you feel like the deck could use all 4 Ghost Quarters, all 4 Wastelands and a Strip Mine, I'd recommend cutting a maximum of 3 Plains to make room, and one other underperforming card, which will usually be a metagame call.

More to come!

14. Thanks for reading!

Hopefully this will be updated once I get feedback and test a few more options. I repeat myself in several different sections, but I’m going to leave some of that in because it helps people find the info they need more quickly. I will say that my win rate has gone up with my current build, and that I’m confident that there’s enough in this deck to effectively deal with much of the current Vintage metagame, and there is enough room to improve on the basic shell and craft a sideboard that makes the deck better.

Good Luck!

last edited by Dumpsterac1d

Thanks for the writeup! This is indeed budget taken to the extreme! 🙂 I hope you can make it work.

I was the one you referred to regarding Serene Master and Wing Shards (I have abandoned Wing Shard due to the same conclusion you have arrived at). You can see my article on my build (non budget) under my profile.

Here is some more budget cards you could consider:

  • Eidolon of Rhetoric
  • Banisher Priest
  • Hidden Dragonslayer (tech suggested by Storm as far as I remember)
  • Porcelain Legionnaire
  • Intrepid Hero
  • Preacher

If you want to increase your chances of landing a bear turn 1, you could consider Simian Spirit Guides for non-artifact mana acceleration.

The best of luck!

Thanks, @Uvatha ! I'll edit ASAP. Serene Master has been super good. As I mentioned, going to try Magus of the Moat, which is theoretically great against Eldrazi as well as tokens. Castable? Not sure.

Thanks for putting this together. I read the first part and wanted to jump down here and tell you thanks for doing the work.

Really quickly I would add that Stony Silence is almost always better than Null Rod if you're playing White. There's just more artifact removal in Vintage than there is enchantment removal.

For instance, if you play Null Rod against TPS, they have a main deck Hurkyl's and Chain of Vapor for it. With Stony Silence, they'd have only Chain of Vapor as an out in game one, and not much more than that in games two and three.

Just a thought. You might want to add that on MTGO Null Rod is cheaper, but in paper I'm pretty sure the opposite is true 🙂 .

On second look, I think definitely adding a section of "upgrades" you could make once your budget allows would be cool. For example, Containment Priest is pretty important, unfortunately it's also very expensive.

Even without the extras though, this type of deck does a great job of preying on a lot of the decks.

@Islandswamp That is an excellent idea. I'll be adding that section tomorrow.

Also I think I mentioned it somewhere about Null Rod/Stony Silence and how SS is just better in general, but I think it's a good idea to address it (and the paper/mtgo cost difference) directly. Played a game today and realized how good Ancient Grudge is against Null Rod... That's the next upgrade for me.

Great write up! I love seeing the deck I engineered and piloted to its first Top 4 appearance back in 2011-2012 still being played and evolving. Back then I didn't have Dryad Militant, or any real one drops for that matter. I also didnt have Thalia, the card that glues the deck together. The deck was a Stoneforge Mystic based deck with 4X Chalice of the Void to help lock opponents down. Here is a link to the original incarnation of the deck that myself and my friend, who won the event, built:

http://morphling.de/top8decks.php?id=1472&highlight=Preacher

One card that I'm surprised to not see, especially in your list is Abolish. Card single handedly won me Game 3 in my Top 8 match against Turbo Tezz.

Anyway, thank you for the excellent read and continue doing well with White Trash!

Great primer and as a long time White Trash player (since 2010-2011), I would love to see the deck do well. However, unfortunately the deck isn't very well positioned right now. As you mention, Mentor is the worst matchup and Mentor is all over the place. Honestly, this deck has less than 30% against Mentor in various forms. Eldrazi is also a very bad matchup and it's on the rise as well (until people find out that Eldrazi actually sucks).

I don't agree entirely on your assessment of the matchups. Oath isn't a good matchup, especially with the configuration you propose (but let me get back to that). It's winnable, but we're not a favorite to win. Shops isn't an easy matchup either. Pre-board you're a big underdog but post-board you're favored. However, usually you have to win both post-board games, which isn't easy to do.

I also don't agree that the deck is very forgiving. Because of the lack of pure power you have to play very tight, and mistakes are a lot harder to recover from than in many other decks. That said, once you learn the basics the deck is pretty straight forward to play and definitely not very complex in comparison with most other decks.

On some specific cards:

Mental Misstep: I've been back and fourth on this, and I never really came to a conclusion. I do think it's better now than when I played the deck a lot.
Abolish: You 100% need to play this card in a deck with no Cavern of Souls. Improves your Shops matchup dramatically.
Serenity: This card was also very good for me. Basically my plan against shops was to Abolish/Swords/Relic their threads until I could resolve a Serenity and from there it's usually pretty easy.
Stoneforge Mystic package: I found that this is not the route you wanna take. Fighting on power/toughness is not the way to go. It also takes up too many slots and have bad synergy with Arbiter and Stony Silence
Aven Mindcensor: This is another card that needs consideration. I think that my most succesful builds played 4 Arbiter and 2 Mindcensors.
Kataki, War's Wage: Yet another card that needs consideration. Not only because of the Shops matchup, but it also does a pretty good job against artifact acceleration and other stuff. Not a necessity though.
Acceleration in general: You need some sort of acceleration in your deck. Spirit Guides are good enough.
Grafdigger's Cage: I can't believe this card hasn't been mentioned yet. If there was one thing I found out playing this deck is that Grafdigger's is absolute necessary as a maindeck card. It stops Tinker and Oath - two of our biggest obstacles - and Yawgmoth's Will and hoses Dredge. That said, it's probably not as good now as it once was. You have replaced it with Militant, but in my experience, Militant isn't doing enough and it's a bad late game draw.

I hope you do well with the deck, there are not many better things in Vintage than beating your opponent with Plains 😄

last edited by JuzamJim

With the help of @Stormanimagus I've put together an unpowered build that seems to look very promising for budget players. Now this list isn't as budget as the OP lays out, but it is still Unpowered.

Here is the list:

"White Trash!"

5 Plains
4 Wasteland
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Cavern of Souls
2 Karakas
Strip Mine
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Simian Spirit Guide

4 Mother of Runes

4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Containment Priest
3 Spirit of the Labyrinth

3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
3 Vryn Wingmare

3 Path to Exile
3 Stony Silence

Sideboard:

4 Rest in Peace
3 Serene Master
3 Kataki, War's Wage
2 Aegis of the Gods
1 Stony Silence
1 Containment Priest
1 Path to Exile

The deck isn't playing certain cards because Noah and I have looked at them and feel they are simply suboptimal. Dryad Militant, while good IF played turn one ON the play against TPS is good, if they are on the play all they have to play is Probe and something else then Militant is almost useless, Spell Mastery is already met.
Leonin Relic Warder, while great against Shops and Oath, can easily become a two for one against you. Also the WW casting cost can be hindering for the deck when running 9 Strip Effects. With Leonin Relic Warder cut from the deck I wanted more ways to attack Oath, so I added 2 Karakas on top of the main deck Priests and sideboarded Aegis.
Cavern of Souls does a great job at pushing through creatures. It also lets us cast the 8 Spirit Guides as dudes if we want to apply more pressure.
I hope you guys enjoy the list, any thoughts would be appreciated!

This is quite a write-up. I don't think I will sleeve this deck anytime soon (not my style), but I just wanted to say that I am really impressed by this primer.

@msg67183 Funny thing, on MTGO Wastelands and Caverns are more expensive than power. So if you are going with "budget" in terms of online play, this is not very friendly 🙂

last edited by maciek16180

Is Containment Priest not a budget card? Priest is essential against Dredge, as otherwise you're leaning very heavily on having Militant on turn one, or catching your opponent by surprise with Ghostly Prison.

@evouga 10 bucks in paper, 35 online. On MTGO Commander sets usually have very limited print runs (or more like, you can't draft them, so there is less incentive for people to buy them from Wizards store as you can only buy entire decks).

last edited by maciek16180

@maciek16180 said:

This is quite a write-up. I don't think I will sleeve this deck anytime soon (not my style), but I just wanted to say that I am really impressed by this primer.

@msg67183 Funny thing, on MTGO Wastelands and Caverns are more expensive than power. So if you are going with "budget" in terms of online play, this is not very friendly 🙂

I don't play MTGO, so I don't use those prices for my determination of the word "budget"

So for my unpowered lists, because hitting two is so important I tend to run some acceleration in the form of lotus petals and 4-8 spirit guides. I would also say that new thalia has opened my eyes to the possibility of playing some number of ancient tombs, as that card is REALLY powerful.

Overall, I haven't been that impressed with Dryad Militant, as generally we have better ways to hate on graveyards and a 2/1 is not as impressive as it once was. I do like both Judge's Familiar and Mother some of the time, though the creature type on Judge's familiar is frustrating as I have found myself leaning quite a bit on cavern rather than grand abolisher.

These decisions are obviously related to playing more acceleration and having a harder time hitting WW rather than 1W but still I believe fall under the budget category. I agree with the inclusion of 2 mana thalia and revoker as the starting place of basically any hatebears list these days along side 4 waste and a strip mine, and I think there are build that are reasonable that include Leonin Arbiter (even 2 color!) I think there is a place for 2 color lists that run arbiter especially if they also run eldrazi, battlefield forge + plateau makes for a pretty reasonable mana base if you are trying to do that. There is also a neat trick with arbiter and Displacer where they pay for the first one, then before the search thing happens you displace the arbiter and they have to pay again.

I haven't been that impressed by wingmare and glowrider to date, though given the choice and my predilection for cavern I prefer glowrider, if you want the effect, in general, with acceleration in the form of spirit guides, I would rather play thorn and be able to play them on turn 1 more regularly.

Ethersworn Canonist has never impressed me much, because any deck you would side it in against is planning on answering artifacts/creature or both. I would much rather have something that doesn't get killed by everything, and that has a more powerful effect.

As someone already mentioned, for the mox hate I prefer Stony Silence, Revoker, and then red cards, Null Rod is easy to remove (relatively to Stony Silence) and LRW is hard to cast and not permanent, I am ok with that for revoker, because it is so much easier to cast. The red cards I referred to above are hammer mage, and gorilla shaman. Hammer Mage especially is quite good if you are playing cavern of souls and SSG.

In terms of cards you didn't mention, I said this at the top, but more acceleration, either spirit guides, petal, ancient tomb, sol ring, etc you can play new Thalia who is worth it! It makes a lot of the "bad matchups" you mentioned much better (eldrazi of a couple stripes and mentor). It also allows you to play some of the eldrazi in the form of Displacer, Matter Reshaper, and even TKS. All these cards have been pretty reasonable for me. Displacer especially is so awesome for combat math calculations and TKS if you play enough accel has proven to be quite good.

As for the the sideboard, white is the best sideboard color in Modern, Legacy and Vintage at the moment, but don't forget about non-white cards, especially in the form of Rav Traps, Leyline of the Void, and ots of relevant artifacts. I am not impressed by Suppression Field generally, because it turns off you own wastelands, and the best thing it does is turn off fetchlands early. Otherwise you mention some good ones, and seem to cover most of the good ones.

SOrry if this seems like a lot of comments, but I have been playing hatebears of various stripes for a long time, and I would love for people to start respecting it as an option, even when you aren't budget. It seems like you did a lot of good work, but it is important to consider other options even in budget decks I think.

last edited by garbageaggro

All great points! Happy the discussion has expanded to other budget hatebears decks. I definitely want to update with a "less budget" list that's still unpowered, or offer some upgrade suggestions based off of what people recommend.

@JuzamJim said:

I don't agree entirely on your assessment of the matchups. Oath isn't a good matchup, especially with the configuration you propose (but let me get back to that). It's winnable, but we're not a favorite to win. Shops isn't an easy matchup either. Pre-board you're a big underdog but post-board you're favored. However, usually you have to win both post-board games, which isn't easy to do.

What's interesting is that, other than getting really horrible draws, I find that the Shops matchup is quite good, and us running Null Rod/Stony Silence, in conjunction with us blanking their Wastelands AND adding 5 Strip Mines is actually all that tends to matter. That and Relic Warders and Path/Swords helps us keep up. Other builds of White Hatebears that add more targets for Wasteland (Karakas, Cavern of Souls) are more likely to get crushed by Tangle Wire, but the sheer number of basics in the deck are what help it in this matchup, I've found. I'm over 70% vs Ravager Shops so far with the build I outlined. Weird that it's so, but it is.

Oath has been a good matchup for me without Cages and Priests, primarily because I have 6 creature removal spells post-board, and 4 Leonin Relic Warders to get rid of Oath. The rest of the Oath deck is only incidentally hurt by the bears, but keeping Oath of Druids from being effective through diligent handling of the creatures that get Oath'd up has been pretty good. I will say, I hadn't faced a Void Winnower before yesterday, which virtually turns off the deck. It actually boils down to what creatures they chose to include in their deck, I really don't care about Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Griselbrand, Blightsteel Colossus, Sun Titan.... but Void Winnower, Emrakul, Tidespout Tyrant, those are cards that can drastically change the game once they are played or flat-out win. It would be great to add Containment Priest or Grafdigger's Cage, I picked up a playset of Cage for 2 dollars a few months ago in paper, but it doesn't do me much good when I have this deck on MTGO and the price for both is unreasonably high. If I see more Void Winnowers and Emrakuls in Oath decks and consistently get beaten by them, I'm downgrading the matchup, but so far, I'm hovering around 60-65% vs the Oath decks I've seen.

I also don't agree that the deck is very forgiving. Because of the lack of pure power you have to play very tight, and mistakes are a lot harder to recover from than in many other decks. That said, once you learn the basics the deck is pretty straight forward to play and definitely not very complex in comparison with most other decks.

You're definitely right about that. I have played tight games where I had to wait a turn to Path an opponent's creature because I made the mistake of playing Thalia first. Is taking a bad opener a misplay? Other than that, though, the deck doesn't give you enough opportunities to make mistakes. The only mistakes are the ones I mentioned above, and whether or not this bear is situationally good/bad vs this other bear. There's no stack sequencing, no digging through your library, no piles, no Brainstorm/Gush... I think its lack of complexity makes the decisions that you can mess up much less impactful. I've had games where I was distracted and recognized several minor misplays I made and still was able to pull through.

On some specific cards:

Mental Misstep: I've been back and fourth on this, and I never really came to a conclusion. I do think it's better now than when I played the deck a lot.
Abolish: You 100% need to play this card in a deck with no Cavern of Souls. Improves your Shops matchup dramatically.
Serenity: This card was also very good for me. Basically my plan against shops was to Abolish/Swords/Relic their threads until I could resolve a Serenity and from there it's usually pretty easy.
Stoneforge Mystic package: I found that this is not the route you wanna take. Fighting on power/toughness is not the way to go. It also takes up too many slots and have bad synergy with Arbiter and Stony Silence
Aven Mindcensor: This is another card that needs consideration. I think that my most succesful builds played 4 Arbiter and 2 Mindcensors.
Kataki, War's Wage: Yet another card that needs consideration. Not only because of the Shops matchup, but it also does a pretty good job against artifact acceleration and other stuff. Not a necessity though.
Acceleration in general: You need some sort of acceleration in your deck. Spirit Guides are good enough.
Grafdigger's Cage: I can't believe this card hasn't been mentioned yet. If there was one thing I found out playing this deck is that Grafdigger's is absolute necessary as a maindeck card. It stops Tinker and Oath - two of our biggest obstacles - and Yawgmoth's Will and hoses Dredge. That said, it's probably not as good now as it once was. You have replaced it with Militant, but in my experience, Militant isn't doing enough and it's a bad late game draw.

I hope you do well with the deck, there are not many better things in Vintage than beating your opponent with Plains 😄

A lot of folks talking about Abolish! I tested with it in the first couple builds and came to the conclusion that it was just not as good as 4x Relic Warder, and I'll explain why.
First, Relic Warder is easily a 4-of in the deck. Even if it has no targets in a matchup in game 1, it's still a 2/2 body and can do all the things a 2/2 can do. Relic Warder isn't real removal because all it takes is a Lightning Bolt to get their artifact back, but it is a huge tempo play in a game where the opponent usually needs to decide what to get rid of first. Relic Warder on an otherwise empty battlefield is an easy target, but backed up by Arbiter, Canonist, Spirit, it is actually a tough call whether or not to wait to get that artifact back.
Abolish is a terrible topdeck. 3/4 of the games I play I get into topdeck mode, for good or ill, and part of my comfort level with that scenario is that there are no dead topdecks in any situation. People are talking about Dryad Militant being a bad late-game play, but I'd still much rather draw that than a Sol Ring that has been switched off or an Abolish.
Which also brings me to the 2-for-1 aspect. We can't obviously keep up in card advantage against blue decks, but what allows us to be at least competitive against them is that we're not 2-for-1-ing ourselves, and that our Bears give us virtual card advantage every time one is played.
Relic Warder can handle the same targets, barring one, which is Chalice on 2. I've had that cast against me twice, and am really comfortable scooping to it. If it becomes a search target, or if I see it happen more often, it might be worth an Abolish in the SB for it, but as of now that scenario isn't even on my radar. For Oath, the game needs to pass through another two of your main phases before it gets activated, which is plenty of time to steal it with Warder.
Abolish isn't free with Thalia and Wingmare in play, and can easily cost a land AND two mana.

Will be interesting to test Serenity. The main issue with that is we have maindeck answers to Shops in Null Rod/Stony Silence, and that many of our creatures are doubling up as artifact creatures/enchantment creatures and have to be boarded out for something else.

Kinda the same scenario with Kataki. Gets better if the deck upgrades to Stony Silence, but most of the targets in vintage for artifact hate are switched off with Stony Silence, everything else is a Sphere or Tangle Wire, which don't bother me too much.

Mindcensor is pretty swell, but I opted for Arbiter because of the 2CMC. I'm going to try a build with Spirit Guides, and if that opens enough doors and lets me play better cards, then I'm all for it.

This is all super good commentary and has me thinking about more options. Hopefully in the next couple days I can update the post with upgrades, address the "budget" aspect a little better (in regards to Null Rod/Stony Silence, Containment Priest, Wasteland, Grafdigger's Cage )and test a version with some Spirit Guides for acceleration.

last edited by Dumpsterac1d

*** Updated today, added section 2 "What do you mean by budget"

In addition to the aforementioned spirt guides (Elvish is likley superior because of Dryad) I really like Ghostly Prison right now. In many respects it is better than moat for a list like this, while still being budget, because:

1 - It can affect flyers
2 - Asymmetrical
3 - Not dead in multiples
4 - Cheaper
5 - Pairs well with other taxes.

I also think some other cards that could be of use include dismember as swords number 5 or even thorn of amethyst as another Thalia you can have in play at the same time. Also what about leyline? It is a very strong card against Oath for a deck that just wants to rush creatures.

Board wipes are the natural enemy of this list and are seeing more play. I wonder if something like Selfless Spirit would maybe not be a good thing to consider if you suspect people are going to be running supreme verdict?

@Dumpsterac1d

Interestingly, I always found Stony Silence to be underwhelming against Shops. Of course a lot have changed since I played this deck and Shops has gone from 4 Lodestone/4 Metamorph to Ravager/Triskellion type of builds against which Stony Silence of course is a lot better. That said, Triskellion and Ravager are a real pain in the ass if you don't get down a Stony Silence. You're totally tight that Waste effects are really good against Shops though. At one point I even played 7 main deck Strip effects (Strip + 4 Waste + 2 Ghost Quarter) with two more Ghost Quarters in the sideboard (and it worked quite well with my 4 Arbiter + 2 Mindcensors), and in combination with Stony Silence, that's pretty good. The main problem is that you often get under a lot of pressure even before you can get down your Stony Silence (this was especially true in the pre-Lodestone-restriction era).

Regarding Grafdigger's Cage, I played this maindeck before Containment Priest was printed. I would definitely play 4 Containment Priests and no Grafdigger's Cage maindeck now - of course that's tough in a budget build.

I agree with you on Relic Warder. I don't think I've ever played less than 3 maindeck with 1 sideboard. That doesn't exclude Abolish though.

You almost make me want to sleeve up a White Trash deck again, but as mentioned, I don't think it's very well positioned right now.

last edited by JuzamJim

@Protoaddct said:

In addition to the aforementioned spirt guides (Elvish is likley superior because of Dryad) I really like Ghostly Prison right now. In many respects it is better than moat for a list like this, while still being budget, because:

1 - It can affect flyers
2 - Asymmetrical
3 - Not dead in multiples
4 - Cheaper
5 - Pairs well with other taxes.

I also think some other cards that could be of use include dismember as swords number 5 or even thorn of amethyst as another Thalia you can have in play at the same time. Also what about leyline? It is a very strong card against Oath for a deck that just wants to rush creatures.

Board wipes are the natural enemy of this list and are seeing more play. I wonder if something like Selfless Spirit would maybe not be a good thing to consider if you suspect people are going to be running supreme verdict?

I don't think Ghostly Prison is where you want to go. In fact, I think that the fact that you are tempted to play Ghostly Prison is a very good indicator that this deck isn't very well positioned right now. You want a metagame where you don't fight (many) other creatures. This deck has a hard time beating creature based strategies, simply because our creatures are much smaller.

You don't want to be the deck playing non-creature spells trying to stop creatures. You want to be the deck playing creatures trying to stop non-creature spells.

Oh, you also never want to play Thorn in this deck. Glowrider/Wingmare are much better.

@JuzamJim said:

I don't think Ghostly Prison is where you want to go. In fact, I think that the fact that you are tempted to play Ghostly Prison is a very good indicator that this deck isn't very well positioned right now. You want a metagame where you don't fight (many) other creatures. This deck has a hard time beating creature based strategies, simply because our creatures are much smaller.

You don't want to be the deck playing non-creature spells trying to stop creatures. You want to be the deck playing creatures trying to stop non-creature spells.

This is totally correct. I've found Ghostly Prison to be a little clunky, which is why I'm testing a version with Magus of the Moat in it's stead and some Simian Spirit Guides for acceleration, but again, Moat makes most of the creatures just worse Enchantments which is pretty bad. But, it's a budget card and if it gets played would help against the 'drazi and Mentor, so why not?

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