Ramp and Let Die: Budget Fastbond in Vintage
- Christian Tobehn
Vintage can be fun and relatively cheap? Is that true? Indeed, you can build a pair of Vintage decks for less than many Modern decks and you can even steal some games with them. Let's take a look at two Fastbond shells and revisit a couple of common misconceptions about Magic's oldest format.
Vintage is the format of misconceptions. Not every second game ends on turn one. Most games take longer than many people think and are more dragging than many combo players like. There is a plethora of creatures in Vintage. Just think of Hollow One, Young Pyromancer, Deathrite Shaman, and Monastery Mentor. The last rumor, which is actually true to some degree, is that Vintage is or can be extremely expensive. Of course, no one will argue about Black Lotus or the Moxen costing a fortune, but buying into Standard your whole life might devour more money.
But luckily you can still build Vintage decks on a budget. They might not be optimal or top tier, but they are extremely powerful nonetheless, and they are fun. Fastbond for example is rather cheap and justifies not playing Moxen. It provides crazy acceleration and introduced new archetypes. Vintage is not only Magic's oldest fromat, it technically allows the greatest freedom when it comes to building and brewing. It is the only format without a classic ban list and offers the biggest card pool. If you hate being restricted — even though Vintage has a restricted list — and playing by the rules, Vintage is your go-to format. Dust off your kitchen table and start cooking with some mean but affordable ingredients such as Fastbond, Oath of Druids, Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Strip Mine.
Golgari Fast Depths
The deck is an even faster descendant of Legacy "Turbo Depths" which already is quite powerful. Fast Depths abuses the power of Fastbond instead of Exploration. Fastbond is not only much more explosive than Exploration, it is also way cheaper. It is, just like Dark Ritual, a card that benefited from the restriction of Mental Misstep in 2019. The deck seeks to get out an indestructible 20/20 flier as early as possible — often on turn one or two. Having Fastbond is important but not indispensable to our road to victory. Since we are stepping onto Vintage ground we play the trio infernale of tutors: Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, and Demonic Consultation. This assures we get the right pieces consistently.
The deck can be put together for roughly €550 at the time of writing. You could even make a cut on the Wastelands if you prefer a more straightforward build.
- Strengths: Fast and powerful; graveyard hate main with Deathrite Shaman; effective protection for win condition
- Weakness: Linear and predictable
You obviously use Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage/Thespian's Stage to create a lethal Marit Lage token, ideally on turn one or two. Fastbond allows you to put as many lands as possible into play as early as possible to roll over your opponent. The deck is very, very linear. Many Vintage strategies employ various win conditions, for example Tendrils of Agony, Monastery Mentor, Time Vault, and Blightsteel Colossus all in one deck. We don't need that. There is not much that can threaten our Lady Lage herself, and if so, we have effective ways to protect her.
Here are a couple of sample hands that can provide a turn one Marit Lage:
These draws would not work with Exploration. They really show the upside of Fastbond. The unlimited amount of lands we can put onto the battlefield can grant us the turn one Marit Lage even without any Mox or Ritual.
Problems and Sideboard Choices
We must protect Lady Lage! It is our only way to win. Well, technically it is not our only way, but I doubt Deathrite Shaman will go all the way. We luckily have effective ways to prevent our token from getting exiled by Swords to Plowshares, brought back to our hand, elked by Oko, Thief of Crowns, and sacrificed by Diabolic Edict or similar effects. Sejiri Steppe, Not of This World, and Sylvan Safekeeper protect Marit Lage from Oko, Swords, and Karakas, while Tajuru Preserver and Dryad Arbor are ways to get around Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, All Is Dust, and/or Edict effects. You don't have to worry that much about the latter, because they are not played frequently in the format. Emrakul could appear in an Oath deck though.
Another stumbling block could be an early Ensnaring Bridge which prevents us from attacking. In that case you should get your Marit Lage and go for Essence Harvest or destroy the Bridge with Abrupt Decay. Decay is also good against Oko of course. Our sideboard protects us from Bolas's Citadel, Workshops, Survival of the Fittest, from Monk tokens via Massacre and from Dredge via Grafdigger's Cage. We have additional graveyard hate main in Deathrite Shaman and Bojuka Bog. Aether Snap is a card I really love, because it's extremely versatile. In the earlier, pre-Vampire Hexmage days, people sometimes used it to get the Marit Lage token and it is indeed a nice bonus to have a ninth card able to help us getting our win condition. But it can do way more. It removes counters from opposing planeswalkers, from Chalice of the Void and from Aether Vial, it removes all dangerous tokens the Vintage format offers (Zombies, Monks, Goblins, Elementals) from the game and it does all this at once.
Obviously The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. A sensible upgrade is of course Bayou. The damage and loss of life between Fastbond and Overgrown Tomb can add up quickly — a dangerous endeavor. You will make life even easier for explosive decks like Storm and Dredge. More on-color fetch lands — Verdant Catacombs — are another sensible investment. I did not play Once Upon a Time yet, but it obviously is a great addition to smooth opening hands. You could cut one Abrupt Decay or Duress or two of both for Once Upon a Time.
This deck is a pretty wild mongrel. It is more or less a mix between Lands and an Oath of Druids shell without the blue part. The original, more expensive list made a name as Ziasbond. It hit the scene together with a deck named Crab Shack in the wake of the unrestriction of Fastbond. Oath and Orchard — even though it spiked a little over time — are still super budget friendly and powerful. Oath has remained one of the main pillars of Vintage for a very long time and is just a beautifully broken card. Those two archetypes, Lands and Oath, fit very well because …
- They're the same color. Orchard fits the deck perfectly because it fixes mana while the deck plays many lands anyway.
- Fastbond often provides a turn one Oath. The more common green-blue version has to rely on a Mox in the opening hand for that.
Just like Fast Depths, the deck is priced at around €550 at the time of writing. As it wants to play grindy games, it needs Wasteland more than the Fast Depths deck. You should not make a cut on them here.
- Strengths: Wasteland and Strip Mine recursion; multiple win conditions; relatively resilient; not as dependent on Oath as the regular build
- Weakness: Not as explosive as other decks
You have various ways to win the game. You can take the common road by attacking with Griselbrand. Very simple. If a certain effect prevents you from attacking, you can draw cards with it and discard lands to Seismic Assault until you kill your opponent. But Griselbrand isn't necessary. Life from the Loam is able to source enough lands too. Punishing Fire or Barbarian Ring can slowly burn your opponent to death. A fourth, janky instant-kill combo involves Fastbond, Crucible of Worlds, Piranha Marsh, and either Zuran Orb or Glacial Chasm plus Wasteland/Strip Mine. The deck, loaded with recurring Wastelands, a Strip Mine, and some lock pieces, can be very annoying and grindy. The goal is to buy enough time to find a way to get through with one of the aforementioned options.
Problems and Sideboard Choices
First of all: Our matchup against Workshops is very good. They don't have much that can deal with Oath and Blazing Archon. Dredge, HollowVine, and Survival are better positioned against us because they have Force of Vigor to get rid of Oath and Seismic Assault. Cards like Snapback — often played in the increasingly popular HollowVine — and Ashen Rider can deal with our Blazing Archon, but Glacial Chasm still provides great matchups against creature strategies. The biggest downside of not playing the traditional green-blue Oath deck is the lack of protection through blue counterspells. Against blue decks we only have our four Pyroblast. Mindbreak Trap protects us against way faster decks like classic DPS Storm and Paradoxical Outcome. Against Dredge we make use of Bojuka Bog.
The two decks offer solid bases to be upgraded over time. For the start you don't need all the Moxen or Bazaar, as long as you don't want to build the perfect Paradoxical Outcome or Dredge deck. The format offers many powerful, but relatively cheap cards that can transport established decks into new spheres or support the building of new archetypes. I think there is still room for innovation and tuning. Andifeated wrote a great article about his own unpowered experience at the Eternal weekend where he managed to put up really decent results with a Jund shell. I'm not claiming you will rock the next CM Series with these or other unpowered brews, but you can always create something new and creative. You definitely have a chance to surprise if your sideboard is on point. Always remember David and Goliath. You need the appropriate tools to put the dagger in the deck of your opponent. Vintage decks, maybe even more than decks of other formats, most often run a very specific strategy vulnerable to hate pieces.
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