UG Uro

I think I’m finally happy with UG Uro and the sideboard in Vintage.

(Download the decklist)

Workshop Aggro (Ravager, Traxos)
+2 True-Name Nemesis, +2 Force of Vigor, +2 Tabernacle, +2 Ooze, -4 Preordain, -1 Mental Misstep, -1 Narset, -1 Oko, -1 Sylvan Library
Counter Spheres & Lodestone. Force of Vigor threats. Allow opponent to lock themselves out once you have Ramunap + Strip/Wasteland. I will gladly keep hands with multiple Wasteland effects.

Workshop Control (Golos Stax)
+2 True-Name Nemesis, +2 Force of Vigor, +2 Surgical, -4 Preordain, -1 Mental Misstep, -1 Narset
Counter Spheres, Crucible, then Golos. As long as you can keep Crucible off the table, you should win.

Workshop Combo (KCI, Blue Steel)
+2 Ooze, +2 Force of Vigor, +2 Spell Pierce, +3 Surgical, +2 Tabernacle, -1 Probe, -1 Mental Misstep, -4 Preordain, -1 Treasure Cruise, -1 Dig Through Time, -2 True-Name Nemesis, -1 Sylvan Library
You need to deal with Scrap Trawler, Sai, and Emry, in addition to the usual suspects. Keep Crucible off the table. If they have Sai, keep KCI off the table.

Storm Variants: Jeskai, Citadel, DPS, Paradox Outcome
+2 Spell Pierce, +2 Flusterstorm, +2 Force of Vigor, -4 Preordain, -1 Ramunap, -1 Oko
Play and protect Ouphe. Wasteland/Strip Mine their White, Black, and Red mana, in that order. Expect Blightsteel in Games 2 and 3.

Bazaar Variants – Dredge, Hollow One/Vengevine
+3 Surgical, +2 True-Name Nemesis, +2 Ooze, +2 Tabernacle, +2 Force of Vigor, -4 Preordain, -4 Ouphe, -2 Oko, -1 Sylvan Library
Mulligan into Surgical for Vengevine. Surgical Targets: Prized Amalgam, Ichorid, Vengevine
Tabernacle wins games.

Creature/Tax Variants (Hate Bears, Eldrazi)
+2 True-Name Nemesis, +2 Ooze, +2 Tabernacle, -4 Preordain, -1 Sylvan Library, -1 Oko (draw) / -1 Narset (play)
Counter Lavinia, Thalia, Sphere, Thorn. Waste their lands. Stick Tabernacle. Ooze to gain life.

UR Control
+2 Fluster, +2 Pierce, +2 True-Name Nemesis, +2 Surgical, -4 Preordain, -1 Oko, -1 Ouphe
Optional: +2 Ooze, -2 Ouphe
Second worst matchup. They have Lightning Bolt, Pyroblast, Dack/Narset, and many, many other good cards.

Breach Combo
+2 Ooze, +3 Surgical Extraction, +2 Flusterstorm, +2 Spell Pierce, -4 Preordain, -2 True-Name Nemesis, -1 Treasure Cruise, -2 Oko
It’s going to be a long game. Keep the graveyard empty of relevant cards. Whoever blinks first loses.

4c Planeswalker/4c Dreadhorde
+2 Spell Pierce, +2 True-Name Nemesis, -1 Ouphe, +3 Surgical, +2 Ooze, -4 Ouphe, -4 Preordain
Surgical Force of Will and Wasteland. Be aggressive.

Doomsday/Inverter Combo
+2 Fluster, +2 Spell Pierce, +3 Surgical, -1 Ramunap, -2 Oko (keep one for Sylvan Library), -1 Sylvan Library, -2 Force of Vigor, -1 Preordain
Wasteland/Strip + Surgical. Ouphe to lock out their mana. You can still lose to Black Land + Ritual -> Doomsday -> Ancestral/Gush, Black Lotus, Thassa’s Oracle, Street Wraith, X.

BUG Variants
+2 Ooze, +2 Tabernacle, +2 True-Name Nemesis, -4 Preordain, -1 Ouphe, -1 Force of Vigor
DRS is the bane of your existence. Don’t be afraid to Surgical your own land in response to DRS so it cannot pay for its own Tabernacle upkeep.
Green Sun Zenith gets DRS. Force of Negation.

+2 Force of Vigor, +3 Surgical, +2 Fluster, +2 Spell Pierce
-4 Ouphe, -1 True-Name Nemesis, -4 Preordain
This match is a toss up. They have access to Pyroblast, Lightning Bolt, and Veil. Keep an Uro and a TNN in.

Points of interest:
I keep boarding out Preordain. We run twenty-two lands, two Mox, and a Lotus. We also have fifteen card draw spells, and two of our lands draw cards. Preordain is my first cut on the draw. It’s also terribly awkward to bottom two cards with Preordain, only to shuffle them back in with Misty. It’s worth running main. If the format goes heavier to creatures, I could also consider Ice-Fang Coatl and Hexdrinker instead of Preordain.

Basic Lands
I want a fourth basic Island.

Waterlogged Grove
The second copy is a flex spot.
It should not be another basic.
It should tap for both G and U.
It needs to come into play untapped.
It needs to add value with Ramunap.

Non-land considerations:
Brazen Borrower
Eternal Witness (yup)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Living Wish
Search for Azcanta
Trygon Predator (too many CMC3)

I’m sure there are other considerations.

MTGO & Localization

In short, “Localization,” is the term for adding support for different regions and countries to your program. Localization determines when you use a comma and when you use a decimal in currency, and what symbol the currency uses and where it’s located.

Localization is strongly correlated with language and language support. Despite the fact that MTGO is printed in fourteen eleven languages, plus the seven languages for Promo Cards (Arabic, Classic Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Phyrexian, Pig Latin, and Sanskrit), Magic: the Gathering Online lacks support for other languages.

I haven’t tested localization, but I have never seen options for localization in the settings. And, I checked today, February 29th, 2020.

I’m amazed, appalled, and quite frankly disappointed in Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, and the MTGO Development Team. I’ve certainly voiced my complaints over the years, but this takes the cake.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to use Google Translate, speak English fluently as a primary language, and be familiar with these topics. Vintage has a large Japanese community, and they raised this to my attention.

Besides raising this to Wizards of the Coast, as a need to properly support a global game, in a global economy, for a fucking e-sport, there are things we can do as players to help support our non-English speaking community members.

Thankfully there are a couple simple options we can do.
1. Include decklists as a file (.dek vs .txt to be determined)
2. Use Pile View instead of Card View in the Display when posting screenshots to various media.

I’ll share more as I learn more, but language barrier shouldn’t be an issue in 2020.

Special thanks to Justin “IamActuallyLvL1“, abr, and ZYURYO (links to their Twitters) for raising awareness.

Vintage Preliminary Events

MTGO rolled out an update to tournaments. Now there are daily Challenges called “Preliminary Events”, and they start at different times of the day. In general, I favor this.

But it’s less than a week until 2020, and, somehow, they haven’t figured out how to automate the schedule, most likely in XML, into a webpage calendar to make it easy to see. Want to put some icing on that cake? Let you choose your timezone to automagically convert it for the user. That’s what a good UI does, right? Does the work for the user?

Pro tip:
Hire a smart, lazy engineer and let them automate their job. Then ask them what else they need to automate.


It’s Turkey break here in the States, and the current Twitter trend in Magic is angle shooting. I’ve also heard it referred to as angle sniping, rules lawyering, shady play, and scummy play. These words generally have a negative connotation, but this is a recent change. Throughout Magic’s history, we used another term to describe these kinds of plays: Jedi Mind Tricks.

In the 1990’s, WotC produced The Duelist magazine. It was amazing, and it featured some of the best coverage of Magic tournaments to date. In fact, I want to go on the record here and say Magic coverage was its best when BethMo was running The Duelist.

The Duelist included play-by-play of interesting interactions at high level events. The authors explained the relevant game state, the decisions, and the impact clearly with great photos of the tournament and board state at that time. They had interviews with the players, Magic Lore, upcoming events, and so much more. I wish they still continued The Duelist. It was the one of two paper magazines I have ever subscribed to, and the work product was consistently amazing.

This is important, because I have a markedly different perspective than many of our players today. The Duelist set the standard for exceptional plays and exceptional thinking skills for the next twenty years of my life, and I hope to continue to carry it with me moving forward.

So let’s work through some deliberately contentious scenarios together, courtesy of @Maxtortion, with permission.

Scenario #: Clean %, Slightly Scummy %, Quite Scummy %, (Cheating) %, with my choice in bold.

Scenario 1: 33%, 34%, 28%, 5%
[Opponent has Liliana, the Last Hope in play against my empty board]
Me: Delver of Secrets, pass turn
Opp: Plus Liliana, pass turn
Me: Upkeep, Delver trigger?
Opp: Your Delver should be dead.
Me: You didn’t target my Delver.

The history of magic strikes back. These rules exist because players are so consistently bad at communication so often, the Judges had to codify them. Your opponent wants to win and does not have your best interests at heart. Learn from other people’s mistakes and communicate clearly. Announce your target(s). I voted for Slightly Scummy, but this is a 100% clean play, and your opponent is also wrong for not maintaining proper game state. Opp didn’t announce the Liliana target, and the +1 for Liliana’s -2/-1 is optional and has no target by default.

Scenario 2: 22%, 23%, 41%, 15%
[I have a Grafdigger’s Cage in play, and a Wrenn on 7 loyalty, opponent at 9 life]
Me: Ultimate Wrenn
Opponent: Ok
Me: [reveal 3 lands from hand and point to the Lightning Bolt in the graveyard]
Opponent: [concedes]

I could see this going any number of ways. I, as an explicit player, announce my spells and targets. If I point to a card, I am not casting a spell, just like if I point to your non-basic land, that does not imply I am activating my Wasteland to destroy it. Other players are less explicit in their communication. If the match’s previous communication included hand gestures for brevity’s sake to cast a spell, then that could be construed as casting the spell. Either way, concession is optional. Make your opponent win the game.

Scenario 3: 49%, 23%, 20%, 8%
[Opponent is playing Food Chain. I know it’s a mana ability.]
Judge: Yes?
Me (In front of opponent): Can I name Food Chain with Pithing Needle?
Judge: Yes.
Me: Pithing Needle on Food Chain.

This is as clean as it gets. The Judge handled this correctly. You may name a card with a Mana Source ability with Pithing Needle. Naming a card with a Mana Source ability will not disable the Mana Source ability. If you do this to try and trick your opponent into not using, say, Food Chain, shame on your opponent for not reading the card.

Scenario 4 (a): 46%, 23%, 23%, 9%
[Playing Scapeshift, 2 Valakuts and 6 Mountains are in play, but only two Mountains are left in library. Opponent is at 13]
Me: [Casting Scapeshift] Scapeshift you out?
Opponent: [Concedes to the Scapeshift on the stack]

This is borderline unethical because of the phrase ends with the implication of lethal damage when 2 Valakuts * 2 Mountains = 12 non-lethal damage. Because your opponent did not make you play it out, the future game state doesn’t matter. Your knowledge of your deck, oddly enough, doesn’t matter either, because it is hidden knowledge. You are not obligated to reveal how many mountains you have remaining in your deck. This might matter more in a posted decklist situation, like a Top 8, but I’d be curious for an L3 Judge’s take on that situation.

Scenario 4 (b): 64%, 18%, 15%, 4%
[Playing Scapeshift, 2 Valakuts and 6 Mountains are in play, but only two Mountains are left in library. Opponent is at 13]
Me: [Casting Scapeshift] Scapeshift?
Opponent: [Concedes to the Scapeshift on the stack]

This is the perfectly perfect way to handle this. Your opponent should have made you play it out.

Scenario 5: 18%, 21%, 42%, 19%
Me: Tendrils of Agony.
Opponent: Mindbreak Trap.
Me: Mindbreak Trap resolves. Storm trigger?

This used to be a 100% clean play when Extended was a format, and it was a common trick Storm players used. This occurs only in paper because, well, people are stupid. There, I finally said it. I’ve been wanting to say it throughout the article, but this is where it happened. Your opponent is stupid because they didn’t make you put the Storm trigger on the stack, pass priority to resolve it, make you target all of the spells, and then cast the Mindbreak Trap. Instead, they got impatient (read: Stupid.) and lost the game.

This only works on paper, because MTGO will automatically put the Storm trigger on the stack, and Arena only has that heathen format, Standard, where the cards rotate and the bans don’t matter anyhow.

Scenario 6: 37%, 22%, 27%, 15%
[I have a True-Name Nemesis in play as my only creature]
Opponent: Toxic Deluge
Me: [Interjecting a little bit] paying 1 puts you to 12?
Opponent: Yes
Me: Okay, you’re at 12. Zealous Persecution?

This is perfectly clean. You don’t speak for your opponent. Your opponent has to pay the life cost, and your opponent decides the amount.

Scenario 7: 56%, 24%, 16%, 5%
[I have a Thespian’s Stage that is currently copying Forest]
Opponent: Pithing Needle.
Me: On Thespian’s Stage?
Opponent: Yeah. Me: Untap, play Dark Depths, use my Forest-Stage to make a 20/20

Honestly, I don’t understand Thespian Stage here. It’s not for a lack of reading. It’s not because I’m stupid. It’s not even for a lack of trying. I’ve done the Judge Program. It’s because Layers is Magic’s Hard Problem™.

If I understand correctly, Thespian’s Stage’s name is Forest at that point in time, so you would need to name Forest to prevent the activation.

In reality, I would stop and call a Judge. I would explain the situation (Needle has resolved, and I want to name that card, clearly illustrating the Stage/Forest), and then both my actual intent is clear to a Judge, and, most importantly, even if the Judge answers the Hard Problem™ incorrectly, I still get the right answer.

This is a totally legal play. Opponent, your ignorance (mine, too!) is no excuse. Find a better solution.

Scenario 8: 64%, 16%, 14%, 7%
[Opponent controls a Windswept Heath and a Verdant Catacombs]
Me: Pithing Needle naming Verdant Catacombs
Opp: Wait, with Pithing Needle on the stack, I’ll crack Verdant Catacombs for a Forest. Me: Ok. I’ll Pithing Needle naming Windswept Heath.

This is a neat interaction and the example gave me a good laugh. Let’s break this down.
First, Pithing Needle has no ETB trigger. You can only respond to Pithing Needle’s ability while the spell is on the stack, and then, only when your opponent prematurely announced it. Second, once you respond to the spell, you reset the named card back to [unnamed], and the caster gets to choose a new spell (same or different) upon resolution. Finally, there is nothing stopping a player from announcing the named card upon casting. If the opponent responds, see point two.

My Pick:
My favorite scenario is the Pithing Needle / Food Chain. This is a perfectly valid play. Under most circumstances, it is an objectively bad play. But it is may be a perfectly viable play that is bad and might win you the game. That’s fantastic. As long as you don’t indicate Pithing Needle is stopping players from activating Food Chain’s Mana Source ability, you’re fine.

In Summary:
I think Max and I differ on this specific example philosophically. The question isn’t whether or a play is valid [because you want to win]. The question is, is it allowed? The answer to that question is not always black and white. But, more importantly, you can avoid these scenarios in the future by having clear communication with your opponents, maintaining proper game state, and making your opponent win. So why are you throwing games away?

There are plenty of Jedi Mind Tricks to still be had, and they’re perfectly fine, but you’ll need to perform these in a proper manner.

Never ever:
* misrepresent the board state
* misrepresent your intent
* misrepresent an illegal play

In short, don’t cheat.

Bring Stasis Back

Stasis is currently legal in Vintage, Legacy, and EDH, if you’re a sadist. Wilderness Reclamation enter stage right. Reclamation already showed its power in Nexus Standard.

I’m not sure how to abuse this combo. Planeswalkers and counterspells seem like the obvious choices, but I tested those and went a prompt 0-3 in the Vintage Challenge and 0-5 in League, netting a total of… three whole games… Maybe I’m a bad player. Maybe I’m a bad deck builder, but I consistently lost against a variety of decks, and nothing felt close.

So I’m trying again with some traditional Saturn Spice™, our old friend Hexdrinker. Dreadhorde Arcanist is still a strong part of the meta. Hexdrinker gets around Pyroblast, and, if you time it right, will successfully Level Up to 3 counters to swing the tide.

Given multiples of the combo are generally bad in Vintage, I’ve opted for Forbid over Force of Negation. Seriously, Wrenn & Six players, Forbid is damned near FREE with Wrenny. Search for Azcanta and Brazen Borrower give us something to do with our excess mana. Ramunap Excavator, Wasteland, and Strip Mine help pressure the off-axis. And a singleton Garruk Relentless helps deal with pesky threats.

I’m still a dog to Dredge, especially now that they’re packing Wastelands for Glacial Chasms and Tabernacle, but that’s as much a play style as a play choice for me.

I’m want to cut one Ramunap for Something Else™ like Garruk Wildspeaker, Kiora, Behemoth Reckoner, or a similar Untap Effect, but they haven’t tested well enough to warrant a slot.

I prefer Mystic Sanctuary over Snapcaster Mage, so I can re-cast Ancestral Recall multiple times, but I can see the argument for either.

So far, I haven’t drawn a single Brazen Borrow out of five matches. So I’m trimming a Search for Azcanta (from 2 to 1) and Jace, Vryn Prodigy (from 2 to 1) for two Goyf.

At least the deck is winning matches now.

Fae of Wishes // Granted

Here’s the list of ELD appearances in Vintage so far:
Deafening Silence
Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Oko, Thief of Crowns
Once Upon a Time
Mystic Sanctuary
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Stonecoil Serpent

Oddly enough, Fae of Wishes // Granted is not on the list. This card is probably the Vintage sleeper of ELD.

Fae of Wishes
Fae of Wishes: 1U, Creature – Faerie Wizard, 1/1 – 1U, Discard two cards: Return Fae of Wishes to its owner’s hand.
Granted: 3U Sorcery – You may choose a noncreature card you own from outside the game, reveal it, and put it into your hand.

The metagame has slowed down by several turns over the past two years, and getting to four mana with counterspell backup is becoming the norm, so an extra mana over Cunning Wish for more flexibility is fine. With nine free counterspells (4x FoW, 4x FoN, 1x MM), not to mention the Zias new UG Dredge (Twitter – Expand and scroll down) with Foil and Misdirection, you’ve got plenty of time and protection.

Add in an evasive threat and you can plink away at your opponent’s Planeswalkers, or protect your own with the sizeable toughness. In a pinch, you can discard excess lands to do it all over again. Vintage restricts Brainstorm to one copy, so the Brainstorm, crack Fetch, shuffle away your bad cards isn’t as prevalent compared to Legacy.

Knowing Vintage players, they tend to prefer the Flash keyword over wishboards, so they’ll break Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft first, but keep your eye on Fae of Wishes // Granted. The power is there. (Hey. I was right about Arcum’s Astrolabe.)

Brazen Borrower

Thanks for reading. Good luck brewing.