Vintage Survival Deck Guide – Build Up To Winning Eternal Weekend Asia 2018

Ryo Jumonji

Translated by Daniel Pham

To the readers: Nice to meet you, I am Ryo Jumonji and the winner of first Eternal Weekend Asia 2018 Vintage Championship, piloting a 《Survival of the Fittest》 deck.

Ryo Jumonji

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

I would like to introduce the “Survival” deck, and go over how to play it as well as how to deal with it.

Initial Encounter

Initially, I didn’t plan to participate in the Eternal Weekend. This is due to the fact that I had retired from competitive Magic, as I also didn’t even participate in the previous month’s GP Chiba 2018. But Magic is not a game that you can easily quit, so I became a casual player and created a “Vintage Cube” to play with my friends.

Black Lotus

However, in creating the cube, I ended up buying an “Alpha” 《Black Lotus》 for it, and inevitably ended up wanting to use it in tournament, such is the nature of MTG players. I found myself already looking for a vintage deck list.

Unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a deck list that you don’t often see in Vintage. Yes, it was the 《Survival of the Fittest》 deck.

Hollow OneVengevine

This is the recent hot deck (in Modern) “HollowVine”! However, you get to add 8 pieces of “Power Nine” and 4 copies of 《Bazaar of Baghdad》! This stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on it.

Ancestral RecallTime WalkBlack LotusMox Emerald
Mox JetMox PearlMox RubyMox Sapphire
Bazaar of BaghdadBazaar of BaghdadBazaar of BaghdadBazaar of Baghdad

As well, the deck on Magic Online not only 5-0’d a Vintage League, but it also Top 8’d a Vintage Challenge and finished in 2nd place , so it had more than enough potential.

When I shuffled up the deck I found…it was amazing! If a 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 was in your opening hand, on your first turn, you can make a 9 + point clock with 《Basking Rootwalla》, 《Vengevine》, and 《Hollow One》!

“This HAS to be THE deck!” or so my heart decided.

Making Adjustments

So after deciding on the deck for the tournament, all that was left is perfecting the decklist. After further analysis, the backbone of the deck can be considered the full playset (4 of each) of 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, 《Survival of the Fittest》, 《Basking Rootwalla》, 《Vengevine》 and 《Hollow One》 which we will call the “Green Survival Set”.

Bazaar of BaghdadSurvival of the FittestBasking RootwallaVengevineHollow One

However, with regards to the other slots, aside from 4 slots for mana creatures, there is a lot of variation to deal with in terms of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even up to the 5th color.

Let’s summarize the role of each color and what they give you:

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenWonderDark ConfidantAnger

…I couldn’t decide. If you end up drawing your “Survival Set” you can pretty much win against anything, and 《Survival of the Fittest》 ends up smoothing out your deck by giving you access to silver bullets to do pretty much whatever you want.

Since the “Survival Set” functions with only green, it is essential that you pick and choose the cards and colors you absolutely need. For that reason, it’s important to look at the decks you will come across in the current Vintage metagame to see what you’re likely to encounter.

The recent Vintage meta can be summarized as MUD, Jeskai Mentor, Paradox Storm, Oath and Dredge. These 5 deck types and their subtypes make up 80% of the typical Vintage environment.

Lodestone GolemMonastery MentorParadoxical OutcomeOath of DruidsGolgari Grave-Troll

So here let’s see how the “Survival” deck measures up to the meta decks:

Cards to deal with 《Survival of the Fittest》 (namely 《Abrupt Decay》) aren’t really being played currently. As a result you are favored against “Jeskai Mentor”, “Oath” and “Fair Blue decks” since you will just win with 《Survival of the Fittest》, but you are not favored against decks like “Dredge” or “faster combo decks“.

The Decklist

Based on the above, here is my decklist:

The Basics:

Although many will focus on the explosiveness of 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, as the name of the deck implies, the fundamental piece to the combo is without a doubt 《Survival of the Fittest》. If you’re able to buy enough time to activate it even just 3 times, you will win pretty much every game.

How to use Survival of the Fittest

Click to enlarge

If you play and search as described above, you’ll be attacking with 2 《Vengevine》 for 8 and on the next turn for 13 damage (or 15 with a 《Basking Rootwalla》 activation). Note: Furthermore, if you have many creatures in your hand but not enough mana to activate 3 times, you can search for an 《Elvish Spirit Guide》 which will let you continue discarding. 《Elvish Spirit Guide》 is truly amazing!

Riftstone PortalGaea's CradleSavannah

Since you can’t really keep opening hand without green mana, there’s too much of a drawback to lands that don’t initially produce green, and 《Riftstone Portal》, 《Gaea's Cradle》 are often overkill, so they were removed from the deck as a result.

Conversely, against decks that are faster than you, as it will be described later, you often take a “Hate Bear” style of tactic and as such want to draw white mana more in your opening hand. Also due to MUD attacking your mana base with land destruction, the number of 《Savannah》 had to increase as well.

Omitting Red and Black:



Among the reasons to play red, the most important one was 《Anger》. Given the search pattern described above, if you spend 1 activation to search for 《Anger》, it will decrease the number of 《Vengevine》 by 1 as a result. Since 《Vengevine》 already has haste, 《Anger》 will only really effect 《Basking Rootwalla》 and 《Hollow One》, which doesn’t really change the overall damage. As well it requires you to have to play 《Taiga》, so it was deemed unnecessary.


For the black cards, mainly 《Deathrite Shaman》, 《Dark Confidant》, and 《Kambal, Consul of Allocation》, let’s look at them individually:

Deathrite Shaman

Since you are most often using 《Deathrite Shaman》 for mana, there is rarely an opportunity to use its non-mana abilities. However, in Vintage there are often situations where no land in the graveyards, and as a result you aren’t able to produce mana enough. In addition, sometimes your opponent has their own 《Deathrite Shaman》 or graveyard hate sideboard cards which makes your 《Deathrite Shaman》useless. When compared to regular mana creatures, this disadvantage is quite huge.

Dark Confidant

Regarding 《Dark Confidant》, pre-board if your opening hand doesn’t contain 《Survival of the Fittest》, 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 or 《Ancestral Recall》 you are not keeping, and adding 《Dark Confidant》 doesn’t change that. Post-board against faster decks, you are most likely not keeping the opener without specific “hate cards”, and against fair blue decks you can just grind out card advantage with 《Squee, Goblin Nabob》. For these reasons, it isn’t necessary to add a color just to add this card.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation

Concerning 《Kambal, Consul of Allocation》, while you would think it is very strong against decks like Paradox Storm and Jeskai Mentor, it does nothing against the combo of 《Time Vault》 / 《Voltaic Key》 and your matchup against Jeskai Mentor is already favored so there really isn’t a need for him. Even though just one copy against Paradox Storm can more or less cripple them, a card like 《Stony Silence》 which is also very effective against MUD can be just as good, if not better.

As a result, rather than increasing the number of colors, increasing the number of 《Savannah》 for stability was deemed more important and thus red and black were omitted.

Main deck 《Stony Silence》?

Stony Silence

Initially there were a couple copies of 《Squee, Goblin Nabob》, however the matchup where it’s great is against the long grindy blue fair decks. As this deck was clearly good against blue fair decks, and you aren’t lowering your guard by reducing the number of copies, I realized you don’t need multiples.

This is where I establish the base for the main deck and the fact that you should have enough useful cards against moderate to unfavorable matchups. Those matchups being Paradox Storm, MUD, and Dredge. In the case of Dredge, not much is changed by adding 3 hate cards main deck as the matchup game 1 is near impossible (90% in favor of Dredge) and compared to the other two matchups there isn’t as much in the meta. As a result the weapon of choice against MUD and Paradox Storm, both artifact decks, was 《Stony Silence》.

Specifically against the very unfavorable Paradox Storm matchup, if you can resolve one pre-board it is more or less a free win, and conversely against the blue fair decks where it’s not needed you can always discard it to 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, so I decided to run it in the main deck.


Also, the 1 main deck silver bullet copy of 《Manglehorn》 is for the same reasons above. Against MUD it can destroy 《Phyrexian Revoker》 and against Paradox Storm it prevents them from comboing off with 《Paradoxical Outcome》.

Having cards that hurt you like 《Containment Priest》 and 《Grafdigger's Cage》 in the sideboard?

Containment PriestGrafdigger's Cage

Why would I choose to side in these cards that hinder my own 《Vengevine》 in this deck?

Conversely, let’s think about it. In this deck, even if your graveyard is targeted or disrupted, the only card that is affected is 《Vengevine》!

The reason why you bring these cards in is because they are tremendously effective against your opponent, while only slightly hurting yourself. In fact, both Oath and Dredge cannot win without dealing with these cards first. While not being able to recur your 《Vengevine》 is indeed a bit of a loss, it is not that big of a deal when dealing with a matchup like Dredge, which is truly unfavored like 1:9 pre-board.

The basics of mulligan and intricate plays with this deck

Game 1 you don’t know what your opponent is playing, so you can’t keep the opening hand with specific hate cards. Opening hands, which you can keep, need to contain 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, 《Survival of the Fittest》 (with mana to play it), and/or 《Ancestral Recall》.

Bazaar of BaghdadSurvival of the FittestAncestral Recall

Although there are some explosive 《Black Lotus》 hand on the play that may be exceptional, if you don’t have any of these 3 cards, you should consider mulligan at least once.

Since there’s no strategy in relying solely on perfect draws, I’ll go over a few plays that are important for the deck.

When you have both 《Survival of the Fittest》 and 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 which do you play and activate first?

Bazaar of BaghdadSurvival of the Fittest

You should be activating 《Survival of the Fittest》 more often. Due to the fact that the cards you want to discard are very specific, you should build your plan around finding them first to discard so that your payoff in the end is bigger.

While it is often true that it is better to draw first to have more options, in the case of 《Bazaar of Baghdad》, your search plan via 《Survival of the Fittest》 gets worse as your hand size gets smaller, and you lose out on a free discard outlet for the strong cards you’ve searched for since you’ve already used up your activation.

Playstyles post sideboard

Everything will depend on which deck is faster, yours or your opponents. If your deck is faster then, for example, a fair blue deck, you should keep up the same amount of pressure as you did pre-board and not give them a chance to deal with it.

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenStony Silence

On the other hand, against a deck of equal or faster speed, you need to transform into a “hate bear” style of deck to hinder and slow them down. For that reason, both pre and post sideboard, when faced with choosing to either play a disruptive card or create a clock, it’s often better to disrupt them and slow them down first then create a clock afterwards.

Sideboarding Guide

Let’s get into the sideboarding in detail.


Against MUD


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thorn of Amethyst Squee, Goblin Nabob


Energy Flux Stony Silence Null Rod
Fairgrounds Warden Kataki, War's Wage

First let’s start by playing 《Stony Silence》 or 《Null Rod》. Other than having a perfect draw on the play, the game becomes about this. If MUD increases in popularity, you should consider adding more 《Energy Flux》 if you want an easy win.

Since 《Kataki, War's Wage》 can easily be pinged down by 《Walking Ballista》, I wouldn’t recommend keeping a hand with only that as disruption. Similarly, since 《Walking Ballista》 can easily ping 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》, and you are basically only disrupting yourself with 《Thorn of Amethyst》, they get sided out.

Also it’s important to remember that even if there’s a 《Sphere of Resistance》 in play, the cost of 《Hollow One》 is still reduced to 0 if you have discarded 3 cards.

Jeskai Mentor

Against Jeskai Mentor


Stony Silence Stony Silence Stony Silence
Mox Ruby Mox Jet


Squee, Goblin Nabob Squee, Goblin Nabob Chalice of the Void
Fairgrounds Warden Wispmare

The basic play style doesn’t really change after boarding. Usually they will bring in ways to disrupt your graveyard, so as long as you can avoid having all of your 《Squee, Goblin Nabob》 and 《Vengevine》 exiled, you should be able to win.

Since 《Ravenous Trap》 needs to have 3 cards enter the graveyard to use its alternate casting cost, you should be activating 《Survival of the Fittest》 little by little, and when discarding with 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 ensure you have a 《Basking Rootwalla》 so that you don’t get caught in the trap.

Be careful to not have your various “Moxen” and 《Hollow One》 stolen by 《Dack Fayden》. In particular, off color “Moxen” that may only help your opponent if stolen should be sided out. 《Chalice of the Void》 should often be set at X=1.

Paradox Storm

Against Paradox Storm


Hollow One Hollow One Hooting Mandrills
Wonder Forest


Null Rod Stony Silence Chalice of the Void
Fairgrounds Warden Kataki, War's Wage

Since we are the slower deck, we have to take the “hate bear” route here. It is important to prioritize playing disruptive cards over establishing a clock here, and for that reason we will keep an opening hand without 《Bazaar of Baghdad》 or 《Survival of the Fittest》 then. As a result, we have to reduce the number of 《Hollow One》 as they often become colorless 《Barkhide Mauler》.

Also, to ensure you don’t lose to 《Tinker》 into 《Blightsteel Colossus》, you should bring in 《Fairgrounds Warden》. Instead of the 《Forest》 that you sideboard out, you can switch it with 《Squee, Goblin Nabob》 as well.


Against Oath


Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch
Stony Silence Stony Silence Stony Silence
Wonder Elvish Spirit Guide


Containment Priest Containment Priest Containment Priest Containment Priest
Squee, Goblin Nabob Squee, Goblin Nabob Wispmare
Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage

To avoid triggering 《Oath of Druids》 we side out all the mana creatures. The rest is basically the same as against Jeskai Mentor. Try to avoid having your 《Hollow One》 stolen by 《Dack Fayden》, so if you have to play them out, try to do so on turn 1 to play around 《Dack Fayden》. If these games become long and drawn out, your main axis of attack will be the “hate bear” strategy.

If at all possible, try to plan around casting 《Containment Priest》 as your second creature for the turn to have your 《Vengevine》 returns from the graveyard first before 《Containment Priest》 resolves.


Against Dredge


Stony Silence Stony Silence Stony Silence Thorn of Amethyst
Hollow One Hollow One Squee, Goblin Nabob Forest


Containment Priest Containment Priest Containment Priest Containment Priest
Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Fairgrounds Warden Wispmare

Game 1 is basically an auto lose. If you really want to win against this matchup, 4 copies of 《Leyline of the Void》 are better, but due to sideboard slot restrictions, I went with 2 copies of 《Grafdigger's Cage》 instead.

Match results and going forward

Round Deck Result
Round 1 Dredge ×○○
Round 2 Oath ○○
Round 3 MUD ×○○
Round 4 MUD ○○
Round 5 BUGr
Round 6 BUG ○○
Round 7 Mentor ○×○
Round 8 UB Storm ○○
Round Deck Result
Quarter Finals Paradox Storm ×○○
Semi Finlas Mentor ○○
Finals Paradox Storm
Ryo Jumonji

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

So there you have it. Not only did I win the first Asian Eternal Weekend Vintage Championship, but it was also the first time for me personally to claim a title.

Clearly the main reason for this victory was due to 《Survival of the Fittest》 flying under the radar, coupled with the fact that graveyard hate were narrow and limited effects such as 《Tormod's Crypt》, 《Grafdigger's Cage》 etc. and with few main deck* answers to 《Survival of the Fittest》. (*Actually in round 5 I was hit by 《Abrupt Decay》, so that plus a few miss plays lead to me losing the round.)

How to prepare for Survival of the Fittest?

Going forward, if this deck becomes popular, in order for fair decks to win…

WastelandAbrupt Decay
Rest in PeaceLeyline of the Void

…is what I think is needed.


This 《Survival of the Fittest》 deck has become a very memorable deck for me, and as such I was able to write this article.

Of course my main purpose for writing this was to provide a guide for those interested in trying this 《Survival of the Fittest》 deck, I would just like to say that, in Vintage if enough measures are taken, any deck can be beaten, and there are possibly infinite undiscovered decks still out there.

Fortunately, the cost of playing Vintage on Magic Online currently is becoming much more accessible. So why not try opening up to this new world?

Ryo Jumonji

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