Vintage Playoff, 2019-06-29

I’m playing Blue White Control in today’s Playoff, my first Vintage Playoff ever in heavy Hogaak/Karn, TCG meta. Here’s the list:

Let’s go through the matches.

Round 1 vs Mathonical (0-2)
Mathonical played Hogaak Dredge with maindeck Force of Vigor, Force of Negation, and Force of Will. You could say he forcefully stomped me properly in two games. (You can tell it’s a bad joke because it’s bad and italicized.) I didn’t draw enough hate for a game in both games combined, and the two copies of Karakas and Swords to Plowshares are insufficient to defeat Dredge game one. There definitely needs to be at least another maindeck hate for Dredge, if not two, and I’d probably start with a copy of Containment Priest. I could see cutting Dig Through Time and possibly the second Karakas for Containment Priest(s).

There’s another case for more Surgical Extractions and Faerie Macabres in the board. I would probably start with the two copies of Dovin’s Vetoes, as they are the narrowest and have the smallest impact.

Round 2 vs Valorj (2-1)
Valorj played a fairly typical BUG.
Crucible lock won me game one after eating multiple copies of Assassin’s Trophy and an Abrupt Decay.

He won game two quickly on the back of not one, not two, but three 6/7 Tarmogoyf’s in rapid succession. I dealt with the first via STP, but the second and third provided exactly enough damage to take us to game three.

I won game three through a combination of mana denial (Teferi to shuffle away a mox), Rest in Peace to shut off Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman, and a single Spell Querller. By the time Valorj was able to cast Leovald, I was willing to give him the card with Karakas every turn.

Round 3 vs thepowernine (2-1)
thepowernine is an established Vintage player. Today, he played Grixis Arcanist. It’s a deck new to the format, but already well established. My deck is, incidentally, well prepared to defeat it. Teferi, Time Raveler stops the Arcanist’s combat shenanigans and counterspells. But I don’t put much pressure on his Planeswalkers. I’m not that aggressive.

I won game one off a turn one Strip Mine. He missed a couple land drops and finally found a basic Mountain, but I played my off-color spells to protect against Pyroblasts and established board control.

Game two focused around his Dack. He established an emblem before I could stop him, and his Arcasnists, plural, eventually wore me out. He was kind enough make my stolen Gideon, Ally of Zendikar a 5/5 so I could Karakas it, but he didn’t fall for the same trick twice.

Round 4 vs sora1248 (1-2)
We started the game with Strip Mine on Tropical Island, followed by Wasteland on Tropical Island. Despite the slow start – and I put sora on BUG until discarding a Vengevine on turn 3 – Survival Salad lived up to its potential for explosive plays by activating Bazaar through a Narset into double Rootwalla and double Vengevine. I answered with double STP to establish a modicum of board control. Spell Queller flashed in during combat to block a Rootwalla, unable to pump, and Planeswalkers followed.

Because I’m running 24 lands and moxen, I can effectively board in all of my hate and board out minimally against creature based decks and still play like a Draw Go deck. I went up two cards to 62 in game 2, and that did not work to my favor. By the time I drew a copy of Rest in Peace, he already had several Rootwallas, a Hollow One, and an Ouphe to my Spell Queller and Containment Priest.

Game three featured my first mulligans, plural, of the Playoff. They had to happen eventually, and I kept a five card start with a Surgical Extraction but no lands and Scryed a Flooded Strand to the top. A Rootwalla and a Hollow One made short work of me when I stumbled for lands on turns two and three.

Should I sideboard for sixty cards, and cease my silly antics, or is one match anecdotal? Truth be told, I’m a greedy player. 61 to 63 cards effect the chances less than 1%. The way I figure, the downsides of a 1% less chance of drawing a specific card are far outweighed by the chances of drawing more hate, in general.

Round 5 vs lampalot (2-0)
lampalot is another regular to the Vintage scene, and he has played a plethora of decks well. Today, he’s on BUG.

Here is game one:
Me: Mox Diamond, pitching Mistveil Plains, Mox Pearl, Hallowed Fountain, untapped.
lampalot: Strip Mine, activate on Hallowed, I respond with Spell Queller into an empty stack.
Queller resolves.
Force of Vigor on my Moxen.
Proceed to Draw Go, with two lands for me and none for lampalot, until exeunt lampalot, stage left, at five life.

Game two revolved entirely around Rest in Peace. Resolving an early RiP, we fought the remainder of the early game with countermagic and removal until we were both in topdeck mode. He stuck a Tarmogoyf, a Narset, and a Deathrite Shaman into my RiP, Moat, and singleton Teferi before he conceded to my Teferi at eight for the ult.

I didn’t expect to 2-0 this game, but it seems he either boarded out his Force of Vigors or didn’t draw them in thirty-something odd cards.

Round 6 vs TonyMontana (0-2)
Eldrazi MUD kicked my teeth in over the coarse of two games. Two Wastelands and a Strip Mine sealed game one. By the time I drew answers to Karn, Scion of Urza’s big tokens, it was too late. I lost the game with Moat on top of the library.

Results: (Hey! Listen! There’s a 7th round below, so keep reading!)
I ended the day at 3-3 with some well earned losses. Overall, I feel like I lost some games I should have won, probably should have mulliganed both openers in Round 6, and am generally pleased with the deck built less than two hours before the tournament.

Card Choices:
The MVP is, hands down, Teferi, Time Raveler. This guy does almost everything I want. As long as he didn’t immediately die on a swingback, he was fantastic.
Path to Exile vs Swords to Plowshares – people are running more lands and more basics these days because of Lavinia and Shops. London Mulligan may change that, but it’s not in effect yet. Given my Crucible lock, I didn’t want to give my opponents a get out of jail free cards.

Inclusions:
(1) Flagstones of Trokair – the deck originally started as a white blue Smokestack deck, but Smokestack under-performed in testing. Flagstones, however, did perform as both a pseudo-fetch land and an anti-Wasteland. For some reason, players don’t want to wind up a land behind. It also pairs well with Crucible.

(2) Thrummingbird – in a deck full of Planeswalkers, a cheap, efficient, blue flyer shines. This little critter consistently and immediately ate removal. It’s a surprisingly strong threat. Even proliferating a single Planeswalker can make or break the math of a game.

(3) Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – a non-blue threat that makes tokens and provides a Crusade effect in a pinch. Strong enough to be above the cut. Can win a game by itself. Certainly not the greatest Planeswalker of all time.

(4) Moat – what a card! Vintage has become progressively more creature-based. As a combo player, I dislike creatures. Moat makes all the creature decks play on my terms.

(5, 6) Taigam, Ojutai Master & Fractured Identify – I tested both before, and they’re both pretty good. I only drew Fractured Identify once, but was able to swing the Survival Salad matchup from almost even, opponent’s favor, to just shy of blowout status by hitting Detention Mage. Unfortunately, losing a Detention Mage token means going back to parity, but hey, it bought a couple turns. I could stand to run at least one more Fractured Identities main, maybe two. I definitely want to squeeze one into the board for those extra long matches.

(7) Gideon Jura – This guy is a heavy hitting closer at five and definitely overlooked in Vintage.

(8) Mox Diamond – Still great. Pairs well with Crucible. Taps for both blue and white.

(9) Dovin’s Veto – This card isn’t better than Flusterstorm the vast majority of the time.

(10) Supreme Verdict – Could definitely be a three-of.

Exclusions:
(1, 2) Fragmentize & Stony Silence – I don’t have a good answer here. Honestly, I think Energy Flux is better when you can cast it or pitch to Force of Will, but both Fragmentize and Stony Silence are better on the draw.

(3, 4) Lavinia & Monastery Mentor – The former is better vs Shops and Storm. The latter is best in a Storm or Xerox shell. I’m not either, and neither of these cards pairs well with Moat.

(5, 6) Treasure Cruise & Gush – I’m not sure what I would cut for these, but I would add in Gush first.

(7) Library of Alexandra – I didn’t expect to keep a full grip, and my deck doesn’t draw like Xerox. I don’t have Sylvan Library, Dark Confidant, or anything really to fill my hand outside of Ancestral Recall. I could see running it over a Flagstones, though.

Addendum, Round 7 vs brianpk80 (0-2)
What the heck? I didn’t realize there were seven rounds, but it’s always a pleasure to mix spices together when cooking. I’m 99% sure he’s on BUG and included off-color moxen, but I haven’t seen enough of his deck to yet know why.

He did viscerally abuse Sylvan Library down to three on game one, and Vraska, Golgari Queen game two. At one point, Brian had 12 cards left in his deck, and I had thirty-eight in mine, and then beat me with a Vraska ult.

Revised Results: 3-4

Overall, I’m very pleased with the deck. Thrummingbird can be replaced with a better Proliferate effect (Contagion Clasp? New blue critter? Either of the card drawers…).

Saturn tested. Saturn approved.

Arcum’s Astrolabe

Why in the world does this card strike me as Vintage playable?

Arcum's Astrolabe

I’m not kidding. Aperture Science wants a card draw engine, and we’re already running blue for Paradoxical Outcome.

Let’s go down the list of pros: It’s cheap. It cantrips. You can tutor for it with Trinket Mage. And it color fixes.

Swapping out Islands for Snow-Covered Islands is easy peasy.

I’m either out of my mind or actually on to something. It’s probably the former, but we should test it and see.

2019 Predictions

Restrictions, in order of likelihood:

Grim Monolith adds consistency to the Karn decks. If the powers that be choose to not restrict Karn, Monolith is the most logical choice.

Narset is format warping, but not game breaking. I still can’t wrap my head around this one. There’s got to be a Blue MUD deck out there a la Blue Steel. That deck could run Narset, Karn, future-Urza and Null Rod, and it can still run Ancestral Recall, Thoughtcast, and Hurkyl’s Recall. Mana Drain seems like an optimal choice to ramp into big spells, too. It gets a little wonky trying to Force of Will through a Mycosynth Lattice, but since you’re only running the one in the sideboard, I think it would be fine.

Why Hollow One? Watch this clip.

I’ve been bitching and moaning about Mental Misstep for at least two eons now, but the proof is in the pudding. Compare Legacy before it was printed, while it was legal, and after it was banned. When Mental Misstep was legal, Legacy was a completely different world. You either omitted one drops entirely or flooded one drops and ran it. There was no middle ground. When you compare the decks in Vintage today and you’ll see similar. ChubbyRain argues Mental Misstep helps keeps certain decks in check. That may very be the case, but I argue it hinders format diversity far more than it helps. And a diverse format is a checks and balance in and of itself. You only have 15 sideboard slots.

To top it all off, we get the London Mulligan next month. I think it’s fair to say, in a vacuum, the London Mulligan will add considerable consistency. Dredge’s percentages of Bazaar in the opening hand went up so much, they swapped Serum Powder for Street Wraith.

Since I’m not good with probabilities these days, I think the simplest math says, pick the best 5-card opening hands, then see how many combinations fit that criteria. Then multiply by 55 for a 6 card hand and also multiply by 54 for a 7 card hand (2,970, or ~3,000 to make the math easy). Oh, and if you managed to get your Karn on the table using 4 cards, then multiply by 56 (166,320), and 3 cards lets you also multiply by 57 (9,480,240). And that’s just for on the play.

Then compare that to the chances of opening a 5 card hand.
Take those numbers, multiply each by 100 and divide by 60! to get the percentage value.

Quick Note:
60! is 8.3209871\times10^{81}. That is an 8 followed by 27 commas. That’s how many possible combinations there are in a deck of sixty unique cards. Because this number is so large, it’s damned near impossible for a shuffler to not work, even when it doesn’t work. After you have drawn your opening seven, there are still 53! 4.2748833\times10^{69} possible combinations for the rest of your deck.

It’s going to take me a little while to code this up, but for now, that’s how I would approach the problem. If you math the probabilities, I can help generate the hands. Please, contact me on Twitter.

MUD Planeswalkers

If I could play any deck at all at SCG Con next weekend, I’d run 74 of the below 75. (You can download the decklist in .txt format here.)

Maindeck
Sideboard

Yeah, that’s a Mox Opal in the board. Sometimes you need to be able to wish for a mana rock, and your maindeck already Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Black Lotus, and Moxen. It could be a fourth Grim Monolith, but you should respect Phyrexian Revoker. Mark Twain didn’t actually say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” He said, “If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket, watch that basket!” (May or may not be true.)

I started to write what I’ve tried so far, but it’s easier to just write it once, update as needed, and refer back to it over time. It’s a living document, and some cards are omitted (See Weatherlite, that legendary artifact for Planeswalkers, and other stuff in articles…)

Previously, the slot was devoted to Sorcerous Spyglass, but over ~8 leagues with KTCG, I haven’t wished for it once…

TL;DR? I recommend the deck. It’s powerful, fun, and hits from just the right angles to power through a lot of the current hate.

Karn, the Great Creator Wishboard Tech List

I’ve tried it, so you don’t have to.

I’ve tested a lot of these cards in various shells already. I tested Ankh of Mishra in a red hate shell (Black Vise, Ankh, Pyrostatic Pillar, Eidolon, Magus, Cursed Scroll, etc). I’ve tested many of these in Daretti, Scrap Savant with Welder, Krark-Clan Ironworks, and Smokestack. The Paradoxical Outcome and Bolas’ Citadel decks are both faster, but KCI Combo is both more powerful and more resilient to hate.

As always, let the evidence of your testing guide you to your conclusions.

I’ll sort these by shell later, but for now, please bookmark this page for reference and share your comments below. (Must be approved because spambots are dicks. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you need to expedite this process.)

Five Stars
Four Stars
Three Stars
Two Stars
One Star
  • Ankh of Mishra
  • Black Vise
  • Blightsteel Colussus & Inkwell Leviathan
  • The Chain Veil (Testing inconclusive)
  • Chalice of the Void
  • Cursed Scroll
  • Duplicant
  • Engineered Explosives, Powder Keg, & Ratchet Bomb
  • Expedition Map
  • Forcefield
  • Foundry Inspector
  • Goblin Charbelcher
  • Gonti’s Aether Heart (potentially a very high ceiling, KCI)
  • Grindstone & Painter’s Servant
  • Hangarback Walker
  • Helm of Awakening
  • Helm of Obedience
  • Hope of Ghirapur
  • Inspiring Statuary
  • Jester’s Scepter (KCI)
  • Junk Diver, Myr Retriever, & Scrap Trawler (see KCI’s ban in Modern)
  • Karn, Silver Golem
  • Kuldotha Forgemaster
  • Lightning Greaves
  • Lion’s Eye Diamond (Probably bad unless in Bomberman or KCI.)
  • Lodestone Golem, Sphere of Resistance, & Thorn of Amethyst
  • Lotus Petal (Mox Opal is reusable and probably better.)
  • Memnarch (good, requires more testing and more blue manabase)
  • Memory Jar
  • Merchant’s Dockhand
  • Metalworker
  • Mindslaver (4 stars, requires more testing)
  • Mox Opal
  • Nevinyrral’s Disk vs Oblivion Stone
  • Nihil Spellbomb
  • Omen Machine (This got better after Narset)
  • Paradox Engine
  • Phyrexian Revoker
  • Pithing Needle
  • Planar Bridge
  • Portcullis
  • Pyrite Spellbomb
  • Sandstone Oracle
  • Sensei’s Divining Top
  • Sharuum the Hegemon (good, requires Welder/4 Horsemen shell)
  • Smokestack
  • Staff of Nin (likely worse than God-Pharaoh’s Statue)
  • Sundering Titan
  • Thran Dynamo
  • Time Vault
  • Trading Post
  • Uba Mask
  • Urza’s Blueprints
  • Weatherlight (Crew 3 is rough in a creature light deck.)

Candelabra Karn

High Tide leveraged free spells, it’s namesake, High Tide, and Candelabra of Tawnos to generate lots of mana, draw lots of spells, and cast a fatal Stroke of Genius. Workshop decks tend to have at least 9 lands that generate two or more mana (4x Mishra’s Workshop, 4x Ancient Tomb, and 1x Tolarian Academy), so I figured it was worth a shot.

So far, I’m 2-2 in Vintage. When the deck runs, it’s great, but I don’t think Candelabra fits in this build.

Jhoira’s Familiar again tests poorly. If you can cast it at four, you can likely cast something better at four. It’s just too slow, even if it helps you cast your Planeswalkers. Cursed Totem in the board is awkward when most of your removal is based on Ballistae. And Candelabra is powerful enough that it requires further exploration.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was surprisingly powerful at {8} vs Workshops. Overall, I give the Planeswalker package 4.5 stars out of 5. I think I want two copies of Karn Liberated, and I want Mishra’s Workshops to allow me to cast Planeswalkers.

Here’s the list:

1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Wasteland
1 Triskelion
3 Grim Monolith
1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Mishra’s Workshop
1 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Lodestone Golem
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Time Vault
1 Mana Vault
2 Jhoira’s Familiar
4 Karn, the Great Creator
3 Voltaic Key
1 Inventors’ Fair
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Ugin, the Ineffable
1 Trinisphere
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Mishra’s Factory
4 Walking Ballista
3 Candelabra of Tawnos

Sideboard:

1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Batterskull
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Silent Arbiter
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Cursed Totem
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Platinum Angel

MVP: Silent Arbiter

Asymmetric Planeswalkers have made their debut. Narset and Karn are strutting their stuff to full effect, and most of the decks seem to have figured out the best ways to abuse the new passives.

Silent Arbiter

It’s round three, game three vs Workshop Aggro, and I’m on the play. I open with turn one KTCG, and immediately wished for Chalice of the Void for 0. We jockey for board state position, and I take control of the game with a wished Wurmcoil, but my opponent answers with a Hangarback Walker for 5. He chump blocks with the intent to attack Karn.

Everyone is already aware of Mycosynth Lattice combo, but Silent Arbiter is my sleeper MVP. This guy changes the entire dynamic of the Workshop matchup. As long as you can disable Arcbound Ravager, you win should win. This is where I won:


At this point, my opponent effectively has no cards in hand (moxen), and I have Ensnaring Bridge in mine. Unless my opponent draws a Karn of his own or a Phyrexian Revoker, his only option is to attack with one Thopter a turn at Karn, forcing me to add a counter to Ballista and kill it. Eventually, I will win this fight.

My opponent didn’t draw an out, and I went on to Crucible/Strip Mine lock my opponent out of the game.

The deck is solid. Voltaic Servant is consistently better than expected. It has pseudo-Vigilance, survives blocking most Vintage creatures (Mentor, Pyro, Snapcaster, Revoker), untaps Grim Monolith, and suffers no Mental Misstep. You know you’re in good shape when your opponent is actively bolting your Servants instead of you or Karn.

Vintage Challenge 2019-05-25

I would consider trimming Karn, Scion of Urza and one Grim Monolith. Also, that Jester’s Cap needs to be Ice Age. Just look at this gorgeous art!

Jester's Cap

I digress. I’m not sure what I would add for those two cards, but I consistently cut these two cards first when sideboarding.

The deck needs an answer for an opposing Karn without needing an activated ability. Meteor Golem and Spine of Ish Sah, are great singleton tutor targets for Kuldotha Forgemaster, but they are too slow to warrant a second slot.

Evasion is out, because, well, there aren’t any good artifact creatures with Flying. Steel Hellkite is the best option, and I’ve tested it (see left). Maybe there is room for some sort of Glint Hawk Idol or Spined Thopter type of threat, but I’m not seeing it. MUD lacks any short of native Shadow or Fear effect, so Hangarback Walker is probably the best bet.

TLDR? I’m happy with the deck. Silent Arbiter is good. We have two slots available.

The London Mulligan

Many years ago, I took a C++ class at the local college, and our professor was a brilliant programmer, but an awful teacher. So a few of us who already knew what we were doing taught the class for the professor. For a final project, we had to write a computer program to simulate Five Card Stud Poker given predetermined rules for the AI.

One classmate implemented the rules with a twist – the AI selected its best hand from both the cards in hand and those it discarded for the turn.

We ran side by side simulations and his AI won about twenty percent more often. For comparison, the house edge in Blackjack is about five percent.

That’s the power level of the London Mulligan.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

When you don’t know the answer, keep asking questions.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

How good is Tamiyo?

Someone once said we can roughly measure the power of a card by counting the number of cards that change game zones.* So Bazaar’s power is 5 (+2 draw, +3 discard). Tamiyo’s +1 ability is a power of 4. And her five loyalty, six if you +1 immediately, means she’ll probably survive an attack.

What kind of non-Dredge Vintage deck wants to draw four extra cards a turn, but doesn’t care if the cards are in your graveyard or in your hand?

* 99% sure it was one of the So Many Insane Plays podcast.