Vintage at Cardmarket Series Barcelona, an Analysis

A modern version of BUG Fish claimed the trophy in a metagame filled with artifact and combo decks, but also speckled with a few surprises. Let's see how the latest releases and changes affected the Vintage metagame, and take a look at the Top 4 decklists!

Vintage tournaments, unfortunately, are experiencing a loss of attendants from year to year, at least in Europe. This is clearly due to the cost of the cards defining the format, the age of participants, and also because of the new-born Old School. The latter format appears to be more attractive for older players than Vintage because the card pool remains completely stable.

The Vintage main event at Cardmarket Series Barcelona, held at the end of September, didn't make an exception, with only 12 players fighting for the trophy. Still, it was an interesting tournament to see how the format had changed after the recent turmoil.

The Vintage Metagame in Late 2019

As I mentioned in a previous article, MUD in its various versions remains the hard core and the "must face" of the format, meaning that you can't build a deck not considering it. Also, you may recall a famous joke about Vintage players that ended on the punch line of one guy asking: "Huh? What's an attack phase?"

These two things are still true for me. However, as I described in other articles, the old paradigm of Vintage, the triangle between prison/combo/control archetypes with basically no creatures in play, has been totally subverted by the latest sets. As far as I can tell, the real and important change concerns speed. The impression is one of a slower format. When I played a Vintage tournament last year, I remember witnessing multiple turn-one and turn-two wins. Today, seeing the lists from Barcelona, decks seem slower, except maybe for one Academy deck with Goblin Charbelcher.

Force of Negation

I believe that the key reasons here are two: For one thing, after the euphoria over some new combo, players tend to gravitate back to less "crazy" decks. The second, so far unproven, theory concerns the influence of Force of Negation (and Force of Vigor): having to worry about six or seven cards that may result in an automatic loss for decks like Belcher or Ad Nauseam is not that comfortable. Whatever the reason, I must say I'm pleased with a slower format, mainly because this results in more skill-intensive plays, games, and tournaments.

New Cards in Old Decks

If you ever played Vintage on a regular basis, you know that every new expansion adds at maximum three to four playable cards to the format's effective card pool. Among them, some types have a higher chance to make the cut than others. Mana bases are affected rarely—it's difficult to beat dual lands, moxen, and Black Lotus—whereas many planeswalkers found a home in the hearts and decks of Vintage players too.

This certainly is the case for Narset, Parter of Veils, a true bomb. Vintage often is about massive card drawing, so an effect that prevents your opponent from drawing cards, stays on the board, and is relatively hard to remove is a big deal. A similar case is Teferi, Time Raveler, a true bargain for 3 mana. Karn, Scion of Urza and Karn, the Great Creator are very strong also.

Among creatures from recent sets, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is an interesting card as is the new Null Rod, Collector Ouphe, and so is Dreadhorde Arcanist. Another strong and effective card is Veil of Summer, a powerful tool against blue-based and combo decks in general. In a format where Tinker is a staple and where converted mana costs are low, Bolas's Citadel is extremely powerful as well.

Last but not least, the previously mentioned Force of Negation and Force of Vigor have had a predictable impact on a format where games are often decided within the first few turns.

Metagame Breakdown

Moving on to this specific tournament, here's a quick breakdown of the decks played at the Vintage main event of CM Series Barcelona 2019:

It's true that a 12-person tournament is not predictive, but 11 different decks must be a symptom of sanity, or maybe of a high "rogue factor." Meaning, players seem to think: if it's not a competitive format, I'll play what I like. And that's the Vintage and Old School spirit in a nutshell. In fact, except for MUD, these are all fun decks to play!

My personal frontrunners were Vengevine Madness and Lands. But let's respect the results and deal with the tournament's frontrunners. Here are the …

Top 4 Decks

Oscar played an evolution of the classic Mishra's Workshop deck, featuring some new cards besides the classic cornerstones of the archetype such as Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, Lodestone Golem, Sphere of Resistance, Arcbound Ravager, Mystic Forge, et cetera. As notable choices, his list included three Inventors' Fair and the combo of Voltaic Servant and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog combo alongside a structure built around Foundry Inspector, Steel Overseer, and Walking Ballista. The sideboard features Mindbreak Trap and Null Rod for combo decks. Overall, the deck is well balanced with lock elements and beatdown.

  • PROS: Consistent and reliable
  • CONS: Predictable

I absolutely love this deck! As you may know, Lands is a successful archetype in Legacy, but I never saw it played in Vintage because of its bad matchup versus combo. Knowing it, Marcos played four Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, Null Rod, and Trinisphere along with two Enlightened Tutor to fetch them. Also, the duo of Dark Depths plus Thespian's Stage gives the deck a fast combo-kill itself. Four Bazaar of Baghdad combine with four Crucible of Worlds to get maximum value out of the four copies of Fastbond, to be sure to see it, and to enable many insane openings. The sideboard adds another three Null Rod and Oath of Druids against artifact and creature decks. I also like the three Veil of Summer.

  • PROS: Gorgeous and funny
  • CONS: "Randomic"

Joan played a nice and solid version of Outcome combo, with some modifications to the classic shell, playing hosers like Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and control elements such as Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler. Quite classic choices also for the sideboard, with some graveyard hate and three Hurkyl's Recall for artifact decks.

The deck is a well tuned version of BUG Fish, built around smart critters like Deathrite Shaman, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Snapcaster Mage, and Collector Ouphe. An efficient set of removal and counter spells as well as card drawers at cheap mana cost completes the aggro-control strategy. The sideboard follows the same lines, with counter measures against artifacts and enchantments (Force), graveyards (Extraction, Trap, Ashiok), and control/combo (Veil).
  • PROS: Balanced and well-rounded
  • CONS: No lucky wins


I think that after a wave of limitations mainly due to the dominance of artifact decks (Chalice, Mystic Forge, Lodestone Golem, et cetera) but also of combo-control (Monastery Mentor above all) Vintage now is a funny and healthy format that allows for quite balanced and interactive games. No longer does too much depend on the die roll and who starts the game. Of course it will always happen that you encounter the odd first-turn kill or an opponent starting on Workshop, Trinisphere, go. But such is considerably less frequent now than it was in the past—and I was there, believe me.

If you love the format as much as I do, and if you have a comment or question about this article or about Vintage in general, I will be happy to respond!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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Grizzly(21.01.2020 23:46)

Are the lists available somewhere? I'm interested in that Doomsday list!
Thanks in advance!

MakutoPro(27.11.2019 00:27)

Cool article! Thanks! I love seeing Vintage content :) it was very surprising seeing Sultai winning this tournament, whereas it is not a dominating strategy at the moment. It might be due to not seeing too many Dredge and Shops decks in IRL as long as Sultai is quite good VS other blue strategies.

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