Vintage. Vintage never changes. 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 and 《Urza’s Saga》 has shaken the younger formats, but Vintage remains mostly unaffected, you can see 《Urza’s Saga》 from time to time and UR got some cool new toys in 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》 and 《Murktide Regent》, 《Blazing Rootwalla》 and 《Fury》 made it into a new build of Hollow Vine.
But that’s pretty much the whole impact of Modern Horizons 2 on Vintage. There are 2 MOCS Showcase qualifiers on the horizon, so let’s have a look at Vintage from the Sultai decks perspective.
I went 20-4 with the deck in the last 3 MO challenges, here’s the recent list(at least 1 《Yixlid Jailer》 and 《Mindbreak Trap》 are out of place, feel free to change to your favorite, I’d go with 《Archive Trap》 at the moment):
Cards that Represent Vintage
People associate Vintage format with Power 9, but I think other cards define it better, cards that put you on the brink of victory by themselves or provide an immense constant advantage:
This time I won’t go through our own build, but the possible opponents and how Sultai is supposed to beat them:
Dredge hardly relies on 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, which makes our game plan relatively easy – destroying the land is priority #1, we can 《Wasteland》 it (Dredge run land destruction as well, so don’t play your《Wasteland》 unless you are going to use it immediately, better keep it in hand even if it’d cost a land drop) or 《Assassin’s Trophy》 it.
It’s possible to reduce its power with 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》 or 《Narset, Parter of Veils》, but I don’t recommend doing this if you have other options, dredging 1 card on their turn and 1 on yours is still a lot.
The second priority is dealing with their graveyard, but, luckily, we’re quite stocked for that. 4 《Deathrite Shaman》, 4 《Endurance》, 2 《Surgical Extraction》, and 3 《Yixlid Jailer》 mean you can take a hit with 《Grief》 and still be able to interfere with their plan.
Your best weapon here is 《Yixlid Jailer》 – it shuts down the entire deck except for 《Hollow One》 and can only be removed with 《Contagion》. 《Contagion》 can deal with 2 of them, so consider keeping 1 in hand if you already have 1 on board, but to be honest, if 《Yixlid Jailer》 gets killed on your end of turn, 2 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 activations + draw phase will be more than enough for Dredge to win, so don’t play too safe either.
Dredge is not the only archetype to abuse 《Bazaar of Baghdad》’s power.
In the last iteration of 《Vengevine》 decks, Hollow Vine relies on 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 even more than Dredge. 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 itself functions as both offense and defense here. It puts 《Vengevine》 in the graveyard and provides 12 free creatures to bring it back.
Unlike Dredge, this deck needs some cards in hand, and 8 recursive creatures make sure there will always be some pitch for Forces. The good news is that all we have to do to win is to take care of 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, that’s it. The bad news is that Hollow Vine has countermeasures to that. Our possible options are:
Destroy the land. 《Wasteland》 or 《Assassin’s Trophy》 will do the trick and it’s probably the best way to deal with it, 《Noxious Revival》 can be countered and 《Petrified Field》 gives you a turn to prepare, not speaking of our 《Deathrite Shaman》. I’m going to add some 《Surgical Extraction》 to the sb next time, a good hit with it should end the game.
Lock the graveyard. 《Yixlid Jailer》 will not stop this deck as it does to Dredge, but it’ll prevent them from drawing tons of extra cards. Hollow Vine will bring 《Fury》 in after the sideboarding, keep that in mind.
Lock the card draw. 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 and 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》. It’ll considerably slow them down but won’t suffice as a winning plan, it merely supports. If you manage to resolve 《Narset, Parter of Veils》, consider not activating her for some to keep her safe from 《Fury》.
Remove the Graveyard. It’s a support option as well, it’s unlikely your opponent will pull all eggs in a single basket and let you 《Endurance》 it.
I’d say our plan is the same as with Dredge, but with slight complications. If they manage to drop some creatures on the board turn 1, 《The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale》 will fend them off, just make sure to deal with 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 first, you can take a hit or two.
A more conservative build that can function without the 《Bazaar of Baghdad》. This build is probably worse for us since it can more or less fight through all your hate cards, it has mana to pay for 《The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale》, it doesn’t concede without 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 and it can bring 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》 or 《Vengevine》 out of nowhere.
The good thing is they don’t interfere with your game and the《Bazaar of Baghdad》’s impact is not that devastating, most of the time you’ll have a couple of turns to bring your game together.
Doomsday can be very tough to correctly play against, but it has a weakness-only 1 way to win (I was beaten down by a 《Street Wraith》 once, though), meaning Sultai doesn’t have to win, not losing on the Doomsday will be enough. I won’t talk about the early game, you should be familiar with all that 《Ponder》 routine, let’s proceed straight to the showdown.
If you have your hand stocked with countermagic and 《Endurance》, it would be easier to just let them resolve 《Doomsday》, which will put the clock on. First of all, the sample 5 cards are top to bottom.
I’m no Doomsday expert, but these are the average piles I’ve faced most of the time. The good thing is we can see what’s exiled. I won’t blame someone for trying to figure all cards in Opponent’s hand and library left based on what’s exiled, but I usually go only through a few things:
Is 《Black Lotus》 exiled? 《Black Lotus》 in means you should expect an aggressive 《Thassa’s Oracle》 push with 《Flusterstorm》 or 《Mystical Dispute》. If 《Black Lotus》 is out you can try to win the game by destroying their 2nd blue mana source with 《Assassin’s Trophy》 or 《Wasteland》.
How much Countermagic is left? The stock lists contain 4 《Force of Will》, 1 《Force of Negation》, 2 《Daze》, 3 《Flusterstorm》, and 1 《Mystical Dispute》. It’s unlikely to be more than 2 of these left, so check carefully, you’ll have to fight through all of them.
How many 《Thassa’s Oracle》 are left? Since the second 《Thassa’s Oracle》’s place is often taken by a countermagic, it doesn’t matter much, but in the case of 2 《Thassa’s Oracle》, you’d get an extra turn sometimes.
With that information we should be able to relatively accurately figure our plan, how can we stop them?
《Ancestral Recall》. The most elegant solution-just make them deck in response to Oracle, cheap and effective.
《Endurance》. If there is only one 《Thassa’s Oracle》 left, that should be your all-in spell, it can’t get hit by 《Flusterstorm》, 《Force of Negation》, and 《Mystical Dispute》. Don’t bother to play it for mana if there is a possibility of 《Daze》.
《Assassin’s Trophy》/《Wasteland》. If you have that option, check the exile pile for blue sources, there are usually 4 《Underground Sea》, 《Black Lotus》, 《Mox Sapphire》, and 1 《Island》, if you can cut them from 2nd blue mana-go ahead.
《Tinker》 is not the deck’s centerpiece but ignoring it will cost dearly. Sultai has a solid game against 《Paradoxical Outcome》 decks, you have both countermagic vs their threats and main-deck backbreakers like 《Collector Ouphe》 and 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》/《Narset, Parter of Veils》. Things get even better after sideboarding.
The recent addition of 《Urza’s Saga》 is not as scary as it seems, you have 《Wasteland》 and 《Assassin’s Trophy》 to take care of it, 《Force of Vigor》 in a land destruction mode is sick too. The key to winning this match is evaluating the opponent’s hand and choosing between preparing to counter a showdown spell(《Paradoxical Outcome》 or 《Tinker》) or trying to break their synergies early.
These decks play a different game, but they cause the same problems, so I won’t make a big difference between them from Sultai’s perspective. The first thing you should worry about is 《Sphere of Resistance》, 《Trinisphere》, and 《Thorn of Amethyst》, these will cause the most trouble, try to avoid them staying on the table. Technically there are some situations you could turn them to your advantage, but they are rare and if you see one, it means you no longer need my advice.
《Mishra’s Workshop》 has 3 prime strategies vs Sultai:
As you can see all 3 are not instant losses and you have plenty of ways to fight back. The good thing is, except 《Sphere of Resistance》 they have no way to mess with your game, 《Wasteland》 and 《Phyrexian Revoker》 are a nuisance, but as long as you remember about them, they shouldn’t be a problem.
In the mirror it’s all about sequencing, sadly I can’t provide you with some short advice, so let experience be your best teacher!
Thanks for reading and see you in MOCS Showcase Qualifiers,
Dmitriy Butakov (Twitter)