Dear Extended,

Sorry, Extended, but it turns out that I'm just not that into you. No, it's not
you - it's me. I know we started off on the right path back in January, but
things cooled off from there. I just never got felt... comfortable around you. I
felt like I couldn't be myself. It was the little things, really. I know the
diversity you offer is supposed to be healthy, but in the end, it felt like we
were together out of some twisted sense of obligation. I'm sure you understand,
and you know we'll be back together next year.

Love always,


Saturday, 6:50 am. My alarm clock goes off, or more accurately, my cell phone
goes off, the lovely dulcet tones of the default Verizon alarm that I've been
too lazy to change, much to my girlfriend's chagrin. I pick up the phone, look
at the time, let out my best Ms. Krabappel laugh, and reset the alarm to 8:30

I had spent the better part of the previous evening debating: Extended PTQ, or
local Vintage tournament? The PTQ in NJ was probably my last shot of the season
to quality for Hawaii. The top prize is obviously extremely appealing, although
the extreme drop-off from there is somewhat less so. I expected somewhere
between 175 and 225 players. I had a Faeries deck I mostly liked, but hadn't
play-tested much against anything except Naya Zoo. The round-trip drive was
probably close to four h ours, which obviously isn't bad. In fact, even
mentioning that fact shows that we're somewhat spoiled in the Northeast,
although we pay for the extra opportunities to qualify with generally higher
attendance at those events.

The alternative was to drive 10 minutes to a Vintage tournament that I expected
would have between 40 and 50 players, with the top prize of a Mox Jet. Although
I hadn't done much Vintage play-testing lately, I've gotten extremely
comfortable with the Oath deck I discussed .

In the end, the decision really came down to what I wanted to do, more than what
I felt like I should do. I probably should have played in the PTQ, since I
desperately want to qualify for the Pro Tour, but I didn't want to play Extended
on Saturday. I'm pretty sure that to win a PTQ, you really have to want to win
it, and going in without having that feeling seemed like a waste of time. I also
really wanted to maximize my chance of winning something to get out of this, for
lack of a better word, funk that I've been in lately.

Overall, Oath has been relatively good for me since my return to Vintage six
months ago. At my first event, I was on X-1-1 playing for Top 8 in the sixth
round, but lost to eventual winner Mykie Noble. I was running a list nearly
identical to the James King Hellkite Oath from August 2008.

In my second event, I took a second loss in round 4 due to two consecutive play
errors in consecutive games, ending up in 9th at 4-2. At this point I had moved
to running Progenitus over Akroma.

In my third event at GP: Chicago, I started out 4-1, losing to a Remora deck in
round three due to my unfamiliarity with it, and then taking my second loss in
round six after my opponent top-decked consecutive Force of Wills from an empty
hand to counter the Oath of Druids I had set up using Lim-Dul's Vault.

For the event on Saturday, I made a few additional changes. I decided to cut the
Scroll Rack, which I'd found myself side-boarding out quite often in exchange
for a third threat, along with the Misdirection. In their place, I added a
Tinker for an additional way of cheating a creature into play. I had meant for
that creature to be Inkwell Leviathan but in my rush Saturday morning, I could
only find a Darksteel Colossus. I also added a Duress and two Pithing Needle to
the sideboard, replacing the three Null Rods I'd run previously (that were only
marginally effective in the Vintage event at Chicago).

This is what the final list should have looked like, provided I had found the

Progenitus Oath

1 Black Lotus
4 Chalice Of The Void
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire

Artifact Creatures
1 Inkwell Leviathan

1 Hellkite Overlord

4 Oath Of Druids
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Echoing Truth
4 Force Of Will
4 Impulse
2 Lim-dul's Vault
2 Negate
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Wipe Away

Legendary Creatures
1 Progenitus

1 Demonic Tutor
1 Gaea's Blessing
1 Ponder
4 Thoughtseize
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker

Basic Lands
1 Island

2 Flooded Strand
4 Forbidden Orchard
3 Polluted Delta
1 Strip Mine
2 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
1 Wasteland

2 Pithing Needle
4 Tormod's Crypt
2 Empyrial Archangel
1 Echoing Truth
3 Oxidize
1 Duress
2 Massacre
I went into this tournament with reasonable expectations of success, as thus far
I'd ran my record to 11-6-1 after three events in a format I was still learning,
and had yet to run into a match-up where I felt completely out-matched.
Furthermore, I felt like I was finally getting to the point where I had a
functional sideboard. Yes, it's probably a little soft against Ichorid, but I
have a hard time justifying the addition of more cards for that match-up when
only two or three players tend to run it at these events. I took only cursory
notes during the tournament because I wanted to relax and enjoy myself - so
naturally, I won.

I'll give a brief tournament report, below, but I wanted to finish off the
primer I started previously with some sideboard plans for the updated list.

My basic sideboard plans look like this:

Against Workshop:

On the Draw:
Out: -2 Negate, -3 Chalice of the Void, -1 Hellkite Overlord
In: +3 Oxidize, +1 Empyrial Archangel, +2 Pithing Needle

On the Play:
Out: -2 Negate, -1 Chalice of the Void
In: +2 Oxidize, +1 Pithing Needle

On the Play, I think Oath is a pretty large favorite against Shop decks. If you
can resolve Oath on turn one, you've probably won. Even if you can't, the fact
that they need to win with creatures puts you at an advantage. Oxidize comes in
to take out lock pieces, and Needle is mainly in case they run Gargadon,
although it has many other applications. Your main concerns are to not get
Wasteland / Crucible locked and to make sure you're not blown out by a moon of
the Blood or Magus variety. Thoughtseize and Force of Will tend to get you
there. If you're playing against a more controlling Shop deck like Stax, then
the Negates have to stay in to counter Smokestack and Tangle Wire. Note that
playing Tinker for Leviathan gives Oath another potential explosive start
against Workshop decks. I lost my first two match-ups against Stax, but have won
my last four games against Shop decks now that I'm more familiar with how the
games play out.

Against Tezzeret:

On the Draw:
Out: -4 Chalice of the Void, -1 Echoing Truth, -1 Hellkite Overlord
In: +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Oxidize, +1 Duress, +1 Empyrial Archangel

On the Play:
Out: -2 Negate, -1 Hellkite Overlord, -2 Chalice of the Void, -1 Echoing Truth
In: +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Oxidize, +1 Empyrial Archangel, +1 Duress

While I wouldn't say Oath has a good match-up against Tezzeret, I don't think
that its particularly soft, either. Chalice of the Void can be randomly amazing,
but I take them all out on the draw and only leave two in on the play, as I'd
rather have Pithing Needle. Turn one Needle naming Time Vault is actually pretty
strong against Tezz. Oath offers just the right amount of disruption that you
can often knock the Tezzeret deck off-balance long enough to execute your plan.
Running Thoughtseize and Duress helps you figure out what line of play they're
working on and how to best ruin it.

Against Fish:

On the Draw & on the Play:
Out: -3 Chalice of the Void, -1 Hellkite Overlord, -1 Tinker, -1 Inkwell
In: +2 Massacre, +1 Echoing Truth, +2 Empyrial Archangel, +1 Duress

The Fish match-up ranges from good to ludicrously good. The only two cards you
really need to be concerned about are Meddling Mage and Trygon Predator, the
latter in particular because it lives through Massacre. Fish decks that run
Black can be more difficult because they can use Duress / Thoughtseize to rip
Oath out of your hand. Outside of that, you know that your enemy has to play
Creatures to win, so you don't ever really need to find Forbidden Orchard. I
have lost a few games to Fish, but I have yet to drop a match to it.

Against Ichorid:

On the Draw & on the Play:
Out: -2 Negate, -4 Thoughtseize, -1 Hellkite Overlord, -1 Wipe Away, -1 Inkwell
Leviathan, -1 Chalice of the Void
In: +4 Tormod's Crypt, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Empyrial Archangel, +1 Oxidize, +1
Echoing Truth

This build of Oath isn't really set up against Ichorid, but you have plenty of
options. Tormod's Crypt and Pithing Needle are the main weapons, while Empyrial
Archangel can buy you additional time.

Against TES / Ad Nauseam:

On the Draw & on the Play:
Out: -1 Wipe Away
In: +1 Duress

My previous lists had at least a token nod toward Storm decks, but they just
aren't that popular and haven't been putting up results in my area, so I dropped
the Arcane Labs / Null Rods completely. Unfortunately, that means I really have
a whopping one Duress to bring in. However, I already have main-deck Chalice of
the Void, Thoughtseize, Force of Will, and Negate, so I already have solid
options against Storm. Should either of these decks be more popular in your
area, Null Rod is probably the more solid choice, as a turn-three Arcane Lab is
often going to be too slow to matter - just make sure you keep the count of Blue
cards high enough, as you don't want to have to take a mulligan with a Force of
Will and no other Blue cards.

As far as an actual tournament report, my rounds looked like this:

Round 1: Win 2-1 against Affinity (1-0)
Round 2: Lose 0-2 against Tezzeret (1-1)
Round 3: Win 2-0 against Fish (2-1)
Round 4: Win 2-0 against Tezzeret (3-1)
Round 5: Win 2-1 against Remora (4-1)
Round 6: ID with Workshop Aggro (4-1-1)

I made the Top 8, in the 8th spot.

Quarterfinals: Win 2-0 against Landstill (5-1-1)
Semifinals: Win 2-1 against Workshop Aggro (6-1-1)
Finals: Win 2-0 against Tezzeret (7-1-1)

I believe there were 44 players on Saturday. The meta is heavily infested with
Tezzeret and Fish, and filled out mostly by various Workshop, Storm, and rogue

The first round was relatively unexciting, as I was playing against a deck
running Creatures and no Force of Wills. He was fast enough to kill me the first
game, but once I had the extra protection of the Archangels, I was in good
shape. I did have to mulligan to six twice in the round.

In the second round, I got COMPLETELY smoked by Josh Barkon. I had to mulligan
both games, but both of my six-card hands were excellent. In fact, the second
game my mulligan hand was Black Lotus, Thoughtseize, Pithing Needle, Oath of
Druids, and two land. However, the Thoughtseize got Misdirected. I ditched the
Needle, not realizing how insane Josh's hand was. In both games, he had infinite
turns set up by the third turn.

The really interesting thing was at this point in the tournament, after two
rounds, I was 1-1 and had taken a mulligan in 80% of my games, but I was just as
relaxed and loose as before the tournament started. So far, I was taking my own
advice regarding what I could and couldn't control.

The third round match-up was good for me, although the first game I was staring
down a Trygon Predator. Luckily I had a 2nd Oath, and the one activation was
enough for the win.

I drew extremely well against my round four opponent, who had mana issues in
both games.

In round five, I made a play mistake on the first turn of the first game,
rushing into an early Tinker that I didn't need when I could've backed it up had
I waited a turn. In the third game, I actually had two of my three win
conditions Extracted, and had Progenitus stranded in my hand. I had to get
through the game without losing while trying to find a Brainstorm or
Thoughtseize to get Progenitus from my hand back into my deck, and then still
had to resolve an Oath and find an Orchard. Somehow, a combination of Force of
Wills, Negates, the Duress, and Needles bought me just enough time to get there
during extra turns. I might've still lost as my opponent top-decked a Yawgmoth's
Will, his only out, but didn't play the turn out correctly and couldn't get to
the Time Walk he needed to win.

Against AJ Grasso in the quarterfinals, I had a terrific opener the first game,
while our second game was one of the ugliest games of Magic I've ever been a
part of, as his hand was all mana and Stifles and Wastelands, and my hand filled
up with creatures and Gaea's Blessing. I had resolved an Oath, but every time I
found an Orchard, AJ would Stifle the trigger and then untap and Wasteland it.
Suffice it to say that many turns into the game, I won by hard-casting a
Hellkite Overlord. AJ Oathed up a Gargadon (the top card of his library), but it
wasn't enough.

I had my most ludicrous hand of the tournament the first game of the semifinals:

Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, Forbidden Orchard, Oath of Druids, Tinker, Chalice of
the Void, and Polluted Delta.

He had no response to my Oath, and when I flipped over Progenitus, and followed
that up with a second turn Thoughtseize, he scooped rather than reveal what he
was playing. In our third game, I could've lost to double Curfew (which is
anti-Inkwell tech that unfortunately hits Oath creatures as well - more on this
below), but I had the Force of Will for the second.

The finals were pretty anti-climatic. Josh had to mulligan to six both games. I
won the die roll and had turn 1 Thoughtseize to strip his hand of Tinker,
leaving him with a Force of Will and a bunch of mana. Turn 2 I played Oath off
an Orchard, and he played Force of Will pitching the Mana Drain he drew off the
top, but I had a Force of my own. The second game, I Duressed his Mana Drain,
resolved Oath, and then used Lim-Dul's vault to find an Orchard.

Overall, I was very pleased with this list. Lim-Dul's Vault has continued to
prove its worth game in and game out, and I think that is the main "innovation"
I've found for this deck. Progenitus also seems far superior to Akroma, and I
don't think there is any justifiable reason to not make that change. Given that
Curfew is likely to see play as Inkwell Leviathan has become the Tinker target
of choice, Scroll Rack becomes more appealing, and I might want to put it back
in the deck. The two likely choices for replacement are Echoing Truth (although
the second "bounce" spell has worked out well) or one Chalice of the Void.
Either of those cards would end up in the sideboard, so I would have to alter
the sideboard as well. Additional testing is needed to see if Curfew has enough
effect on the game to require changes to the list.

The best tonic for repeated losing is to win something. That's obvious. That
said, I wouldn't have won this tournament had I gone on tilt after round 2, or
after the first game of round 5, and I was more aggressive with my mulligan
decisions than I have been in the recent past, and considerably more decisive
with my sideboard maneuvers. Taking the time to examine some of my recent
failings, and committing myself to working on them, paid dividends for me this
weekend. Yes, I had some fortunate opening hands - and my opponents had some
unfortunate hands - but one of the strengths of this deck is its potential for
quick openings that put on immediate pressure and disruption. That's partially
why I play the deck. I also just happen to really like the way this build of
Oath plays, and the fact that for many people this isn't a deck they test
against, which gives me another advantage.

The combination of Progenitus and honest reflection - it does a body good.

A quick shot-out to Mike with CCGames for running another great event, AU Blue
Bell for hosting, and Chas, Mykie, and Legrow for the play-testing and advice.

Until next time...

Matt Elias