Vintage at Cardmarket Series Prague: Dread(ge) Return
Dredge claims the trophy among eighteen players, defeating a planeswalker-heavy midrange brew in the finals. Let's take a look at all the Top 8 lists, see how the format changed after the restriction of Narset, and explore the latest developments.
We're back to Vintage again, this time with some exciting news from the tournament held during this year's Cardmarket Series stop in Prague: eighteen players were fighting for the trophy—still not a huge number, but 50% more than in Barcelona—and reaffirmed the diversity of the current metagame. After seeing BUG Fish beat Paradoxical Outcome in the finals in Spain, the situation in Prague looked totally different: Dredge, a deck that hadn't reached the Top 4 at the previous stop, earned a solid first place after the Swiss rounds and then also claimed the trophy in the playoffs.
As I analyzed in detail within my last article on Vintage, the metagame recently shifted to a quite varied, somewhat slower, and unpredictable state. This is such a relief for a format haunted for years by the domain of Prison/MUD decks and suffering under the constant nightmare of first/second turn kills.
Still, you can't expect a perfectly balanced metagame in a format that allows almost all the cards printed in 26 years of Magic and permits the maximum level of insane plays. One aspect I noticed among this Top 8, compared to the event in Barcelona, is a more "classic" Vintage feel: browsing Barcelona's lists I found more than one deck that you could classify as "Legacy-with-Power Nine," while Prague featured TPS, Dredge, and Oath—decks that have belonged to the history of the format for many years.
Top 8 Breakdown
Coming to the core of the tournament, here's a quick breakdown of the decks that reached the Top 8 at the Vintage main event of CM Series Prague 2019:
- 2 Oath of Druids
- 1 Dredge
- 1 Four-Color Midrange
- 1 Painter's Servant Combo
- 1 Jeskai Aggrocontrol
- 1 Paradoxical Outcome
- 1 The Perfect Storm
It's true that eighteen-person tournaments aren't indicative of larger trends, but after eleven different decks among the twelve players in Barcelona, this is another symptom of the variety and the balance of the format, even if some would substitute the word "balance" with "rogueness"—or worse.
- Exhibit 1: No artifact decks in the Top 8! That's very unusual for Vintage.
- Exhibit 2: Lots of main-deck Pyroblasts. And in fact, eight out of eight decks play blue.
- Exhibit 3: Six decks include Narset, Parter of Veils, testifying that the recent restriction was absolutely due.
I'll go through the Top 8 decks starting with the quarterfinalists' lists, moving on to the Top 4 and to the finalist, with a dedicated section on the winner's deck.
|Top 8: Hannes Eriksson's TPS|
Hannes played a version of the mighty TPS (the Perfect Storm) with some personal choices in the main deck including two copies of Defense Grid and four Dark Petition. As for the rest—classic set of manipulation, card draw, tutors, and assorted bombs. I personally find it quite risky to have a single winner in the whole deck, and for this I would add a Blightsteel Colossus as a second finisher or potential target for Tinker other than Bolas's Citadel. The sideboard features Fatal Push for boring critters, a set of artifact bouncers and another two Defense Grid against control. Two Tormod's Crypt probably aren't enough to face Dredge. Karakas—what a tech!
- PROS: Explosive and good in any metagame
- CONS: Fragile
|Top 8: Johannes Heibach's Painter|
Pretty original deck here, with much versatility and options. Very solid and wide draw engine, with draw sevens and delve drawers, good tutors and good manipulation. I personally love the Welders and the Explosives for the possibility to adapt to every opponent's deck, together with the combo shell made up of the four artifacts Grindstone, Painter's Servant, Time Vault, and Voltaic Key. Another reason why I love the deck are the four Pyroblast main. These are obviously huge against all blue-based decks, basically all the field, and they're never useless, having Painters and this many draw-discard effects. I also like the single Painter and Lattice in the sideboard to be taken via Karn.
- PROS: Versatile, effective, and fun to play with
- CONS: Somewhat slow
|Top 8: Mikael Johansson's Jeskai Aggrocontrol|
Original deck here, an evolution of aggrocontrol. Card and board advantage are built around Arcanist and Pyromancer, with Dacks to take care of artifacts and a good set of removal for the rest. If it isn't stopped, Arcanist acts as multiple Snapcaster Mages rolled into one, at the same time fueling Pyromancer. I like also the choice of three Pyroblast main, with Dack Fayden to discard them in the rare case the opponent doesn't play blue. Lavinia too is a lovely critter to play, as is Mentor. The sideboard's got some strange singletons like Strip Mine, Tormod's Crypt and Null Rod, and no tutors to find them, but also some other useful tool for the various top-tier decks of the format.
- PROS: Consistent, balanced, and quite solid
- CONS: Slow against fast-paced decks, and no random wins
|Top 8: Martin Vsiansky's Paradoxical Outcome|
Quite classic version of the Paradoxical Outcome deck here, taken into a control direction rather than the combo one. If you're interested in the deck and its various shells check out this article. Spicy and peculiar choices in the sideboard include only one Tormod's Crypt, which seems insufficient as graveyard hate, even if Grafdigger's Cage is here to help. I very much like Kambal as a card in general, but I don't know specific matchups, except Storm or mirrors, to board it in. Two Swords to Plowshares can't do anything against Oath or creature decks nor can one Pierce and one Dispute settle the matchup against combo-control …
- PROS: Viable in every matchup and metagame
- CONS: Null Rod and Collector Ouphe—not sure about this sideboard's effectivity
|Top 4: Mikael Linden's Oath of Druids|
A very nice way to revamp a classic Vintage archetype. From the last two expansions Mikael took two copies each of Force of Negation and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Oko is lovely tech because, in addition to his other abilities, he is able to turn one of the opponent's artifacts into a creature, thus enabling Oath of Druids action without having Forbidden Orchard in play. Veil of Summer is another nice piece of technology, as is Abrade to get rid of Grafdigger's Cage, nasty artifacts, or pesky critters. I'm less enthusiastic about Gaea's Blessing, never liked it, and about Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Granted, Sphinx can also come into play via Tinker and is immune to Karakas, but it isn't so effective against combo and control decks. The sideboard features four Wasteland and a Strip Mine, presumably for Dredge's Bazaars, combo-control's Library of Alexandria, Tolarian Academy, Karakas, and MUD's Workshops and Ancient Tomb. I also like the redundancy of Ravenous Traps and Claims against tier-one decks like Dredge and MUD.
- PROS: Clear strategy, solid deck
- CONS: No plan b against the massive sideboard hate in the various decks
|Top 4: Martin Okurek's Oath of Druids|
Another Oath, so many points expressed for Mikael's deck above also apply here, but with some quite remarkable differences. The first is the choice of two Inferno Titan to pair with Griselbrand instead of Tinker and Sphinx. The second is the choice of Ancient Grudge over Abrade as artifact removal. Also, no Spell Pierce and three Pyroblast instead of four in favor of more card drawers like Gush, Treasure Cruise, and Deep Analysis. The sideboard is interesting as well, with Sphinx for aggro decks and Niv-Mizzet a very interesting choice. I also like the Cavern of Souls, even if it's quite random as a singleton.
- PROS: Clear strategy, lots of card drawing
- CONS: Some random choices and some doubt regarding sideboard's effectivity
|Finalist: Niklas Holtmann's Four-Color Midrange|
I immediately fell in love with this deck: well-built, unpredictable, funny, got answers for everything an opponent can play. I love the number of copies chosen for every card, but I have to suspect that this deck brutally depends on the presence of Deathrite Shaman or Wrenn and Six among the opening draw. Otherwise, supporting four colors with only four Moxen, while also playing three Wasteland and a Strip Mine … quite risky. The sideboard is as lovable as the main, with one or two copies of every solution. Playing this deck should be like spinning a roulette wheel!
- PROS: Funny, complete, and versatile
- CONS: A little random, can easily run into mana problems
15 months ago I wrote an article about Dredge, the key point of which, for the lazy ones, was the power infusion offered to the archetype by Hollow One. To this, the last 16 months added some crucial factors: the new mulligan rule maximizing the chance to have Bazaar in the opening hand and the printing of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Force of Vigor, and Force of Negation. On the flip side, there's the restriction of Golgari Grave-Troll and Mental Misstep.
Let's go to browse the winner's list and discuss some interesting card choices:
|Champion: Fabian Friedrich's Dredge|
The main deck is a well-rounded Dredge list, with the usual redundancy in all the non-restricted tools. I agree with the choice of playing Unmask plus Force of Will for disruption, even if the blue cards only number fourteen. In this post-Troll day and age, Shambling Shell provides the necessary dredging, alongside the classic Thugs and Imps. As a strategic choice, I like main-deck Hollow Ones and playing three Dread Return instead of one or two. The sideboard is built around 0-cost spells: Force of Vigor, Ravenous Trap, and Force of Negation, as well as Sickening Shoal to remove boring critters or hazardous creatures like Mentor or Containment Priest.
- PROS: Killing machine capable of systematic turn 2/3 kills—with strong disruption to boot
- CONS: Hosers and graveyard hate in all sideboards and even in some main decks
Although I'm not fully satisfied with the number of players attending the Vintage tournament, I'm very happy about the outcome, both about the variety of decks and the innovations players came up with. There's barely any netdecking here!
If you follow other formats, you may be thinking that playing TPS, Oath, or Dredge is "not playing Magic." But you must always consider that we're talking of games living in a subtle equilibrium here, forever teetering on the edge: a battle of nerves instead of a long-term and slow-paced development. As always—if you love the format and have a comment about this article or about Vintage in general, I'll be happy to respond. Till next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.