I recently played in the Untap Open Vintage League. For those unfamiliar with UOL, it’s a tournament series run via Discord on Untap.in, a free site to test Magic (and other TCG/CCGs) against other users. There are usually between 18 and 40 players per league, depending on the format and how popular it is at a given time. This league had 19 players to start, and 2 drops.
Prior to this particular league, I’d played mostly Paradoxical Outcome decks. I love drawing cards and combo/control shells, so P.O. shells fit right into my area of interest. About two weeks out from the start of this league, however, I was itching to play something new, so I took Brassman’s Hollow Bears and submitted it unaltered. Since the league and site are free, I knew plenty of folks were likely to show up on 1 of 2 decks: Shops and P.O. Xerox/Combo. This was run starting with the release of Theros: Beyond Death, so pre-Companions tearing eternal formats apart.
For reference, my 75 was:
Dig Through Deck:
- 4 Serum Powder
- 4 Bazaar of Baghdad
- 4 Once Upon a Time
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Black Lotus
- 4 Elvish Spirit Guide
- 4 City of Brass
- 4 Mana Confluence
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Collector Ouphe
Bazaar Go Brrrr:
- 4 Basking Rootwalla
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Hollow One
- 4 Stonecoil Serpant
- 1 Wasteland
- 1 Strip Mine
- 1 Chalice of the Void
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Timewalk
- 4 Mindbreak Trap
- 2 Surgical Extraction
- 2 Kataki, War’s Wage
- 3 Leyline of the Void
- 4 Force of Vigor
For those of you who haven't heard of this deck, or haven't read Brassman's great tournament report/miniprimer, he goes into it in detail here.
Round 1 vs UGbw Survival
This was a game about how underestimating Survival lines can hurt.
Game 1, he leads on Trop, Ancestral, Mox, Mox, Survival, go. I Once Upon a Time, and find a Confluence. I cast an Thalia off of Elvish Guide. He plays land, Lotus, and Survivals me to death via pitching Rootwalla for Vengevine, pitching Vengevines for Vengevines and then casting a last Rootwalla.
Board: -4 Ouphe, -Chalice, +3 Leyline, +2 Surgical.
I Powder twice, mulligan, Powder again, and mulligan again before I have an even somewhat okay hand. I lead on Leyline, Strip Mine, go. He endstep Force of Vigors, and I have no real followup to Deathrite into T2 Survival, pitch Rootwalla for Elvish Guide, pitch Vengevine into Elvish Guide, pitch Rootwalla.
Round 2 vs BUG Control
This round was the case of “Bazaar does stupid things.” Game 1 on the play, I play Bazaar, crack it, dump 2 Vengevines, cast a Rootwalla, and cast a pair of Hollow Ones. Opponent concedes.
Board: +2 Surcials, +2 Mindbreak Trap, -4 Ouphes.
Game 2, he plays a Deathrite. I play a Bazaar and dump 3 Vengevines, cast a Once Upon a Time, grab a Hollow One, and play Stonecoil x=0, Hollow One. Opponent conceded.
Round 3 vs Shops
My opponent ghosted me this round. I didn’t put enough effort into contacting them to avoid getting a draw (as I only contacted them once in DMs). I also had some bad life stuff happen this week, so I probably would have played poorly so at the time, I consider a draw better than a probable loss. This came back to haunt me later.
Round 4 vs Shops
This game went amazingly. Game 1, I’m on the draw. Opponent drops a Sphere, I Once Upon a Time in response and find a Bazaar. I Bazaar, losing a Rootwalla for 2 Hollow Ones. He plays a Lodestone Golem. I crash in, he blocks. I cast a Mox off of a land and Bazaar into a Deathrite, ditching my 2nd OUaT. I cast the Shaman next turn.
We go back and forth for awhile, and the board gets messy. I have him at 10, but can’t swing in. He cracks an Ancient Tomb, and I find the stupid/genius line. I drain him with Deathrite to 6, and draw the last OUaT I need if he uses Tomb. He does, I drain him and tap Bazaar for lethal on my turn.
Game 2, I have the fast hand and just beat him to death through a Sphere and Thorn. His Strip Mine isn’t good enough to stop my Bazaar, as 1 activation is all I needed. I eventually find Ouphe before he finds enough lands to get around his own Sphere.
Round 5 vs Golos Stax/Prison
This was the round where the deck’s hard slant against the average metagame really hurt. My opponent is a Stax/Prison expert, playing decks like Lantern Control, Whir Prison, Sundial Stax, etc for their whole competitive career. The Bears gameplan is somewhat loose, as they’re using Workshop to cast Golos for Tabernacle or Karakas, but the Graveyard plan is also light against Ensnaring Bridge and Karn for Spine of Ish Sah to sacrifice and loop it.
Game 1 on the play, I keep a fascinating hand of 2 Once Upon a Time, Lotus, Stonecoil, Rootwalla, Pearl, Wasteland. If you want to reply with whether you'd keep this or ditch this, feel free to chime in below.
I keep on the logic that I should be able to convert 1 OUaT into action, and can still play the 2nd if I don’t get it in the top 5. I cast OUaT and see Ruby, Sapphire, Recall, Strip Mine, and a Rootwalla. I take the Rootwalla. I play and crack Lotus and cast OUaT #2. I find a Thalia and a Bazaar. Once again, if you'd like to say which you'd lean on keeping in the blind, feel free to chime in below.
I decide to try and keep him off of lock pieces, and take Thalia. I cast a Rootwalla and Thalia, and pass. He Strip Mines my wasteland, and passes. I draw a Confluence, attack, and play Rootwalla #2. He plays Karakas to bounce Thalia, 2 Moxen, and a Sphere. I’m locked out of casting anything else as he casts Golos for a Tabernacle to clinch it a few turns later.
I board as if it were Shops (-Thalia, - Thorn, - Chalice, +Kataki, + Force of Vigor). My reasoning is while Ouphes aren’t great, Thalia is lighter into his pair of Karakas and slightly harder to cast (given that Elvish Guides produce green), and Ouphes are at least still fine in preventing Factories from boosting each other. Thalia stops any Mox/Lotus shenanigans T1, but so does Ouphe.
Game 2 I powder one of my Forces away, and keep a Bazaar hand. I get to pitch a Vengevine, keeping another Force, and he Surgicals it with the trigger on the stack as I cast Rootwalla into Hollow One. I at least have 5 power. Turn 1, he drops Ensnaring Bridge. I still have enough room to just go under him, potentially, so this is a race scenario. I draw a Time Walk, and Bazaar again, trying to find action. I briefly try and work out if I have enough cards to cast Time and the Hollow One I drew, but conclude that if I do, I will have 3 points of damage missing after he drops his hand below 4 cards on his next turn. I decide to hold up Force, and crash in. He goes for Golos into Tabernacle, and I’m forced to fire off the Force in response to trigger. I get to keep only 1 creature, and keep a Hollow One. His followup Spine of Ish Sah is enough to seal the deal.
I lost out at 9th because of my 2 losses and my ghosting opponent continuing to ghost everyone. My OMW% dropped to 36% because of him, and a new Vintage player gets into 8th with 0-2-1 and 2 byes.
It was a bitter end for what was likely my last tournament match for either awhile (if Wizards bans certain/all companions in my main format of Legacy at least) or ever (as I’m considering largely selling out). I won’t go on too much of a rant here, but I do think that there’s an issue with how R&D has been handling things from both a design (Companion) and development (Oko) standpoint. I’m not here to tell others to not enjoy things that they enjoy, and I’ll still be running leagues for others to play in. But Companions really did put into perspective for me how little I’ve personally enjoyed the last year of Magic and the direction its taken.
So this is my personal last ode to Vintage, where I could draw a billion cards in a turn, blow up people’s mana better than anywhere else, flip my deck into my graveyard in a terrifying way, and play Magic like no other format. It has some of the best parts of Cube with powerful singleton cards, and some of Legacy, with lots of knowledge and depths to lines of play with little room for error.
I’m not a mainstay of the community, but I’ve been adamant to others that it’s not all brokenness and T1 kills that people outside the format view it as. I've enjoyed watching the twists and turns of the decks, playing a bit from before the P.O. printing on and off until now. Seeing what the next card Shops gets Restricted, what craziness Xerox decks come up with next, finding more niche cards that don't work well outside of the format like Lodestone Golem, Merchant Scroll, and Mystical Tutor, seeing what old or new archetypes get born... I really do like watching metas evolve. It’s a very unique and fun format. I hope others can enjoy it for years to come.