Hey, who let in all these Elephants? A First Place Report.
Rich Shay

Graduate school is giving me the chance to work on some very interesting
projects. But the research and very intense classes are consuming quite a lot of
time, and I haven't been able to attend as many Vintage events as I would like.
This is my second Vintage tournament since I arrived at CMU in August. However,
it was a day of playing great games with awesome people, and a reminder of why,
despite having so little free time, I continue to play this game.

This was a 22-person tournament at Mr Nice Guy's, the store of a fellow named
Ron. My previous trips to Ron's place have involved drafting against some very
skilled drafters; I have a lot to learn in that area. Today, however, was
Vintage.  So, some other folks and I met up and made our way from the CMU campus
to Ron's for a day of Vintage.

The Decklist

This decklist was the product of a collaboration between myself and Brad
Granberry, with additional input by other teammates. Brad and I have been
teammates for the better part of a decade: first on Reflection and now on R+D.
Brad does not attend tournaments as often as some other players do, so he might
not be as well-known as some other members of the Vintage community. But he is a
first-rate player and theorist. This deck would not have come together without
his invaluable insights and testing. Thanks to Brad, and thanks to the rest of
Team R+D for their thoughts and ideas regarding this deck.

Here is the decklist:

    4 Forbidden Orchard
    1 Strip Mine
    4 Misty Rainforest
    1 Library of Alexandria
    1 Tolarian Academy
    1 Forest
    2 Island
    1 Tropical Island
    3 Underground Sea

    1 Mox Sapphire
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mana Crypt
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Black Lotus
    1 Sol Ring

    4 Oath of Druids
    1 Tinker
    1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
    1 Darksteel Colossus
    1 Terastodon

    1 Tezzeret the Seeker
    1 Time Vault
    1 Voltaic Key

    4 Spell Pierce
    4 Force of Will

    2 Sensei's Divining Top
    1 Yawgmoth's Will
    1 Regrowth
    1 Time Walk
    1 Mystical Tutor
    1 Merchant Scroll
    1 Vampiric Tutor
    1 Demonic Tutor

    1 Ponder
    1 Gifts Ungiven
    1 Thirst for Knowledge
    1 Brainstorm
    1 Ancestral Recall
    1 Lat-Nam's Legacy

// Sideboard:
SB: 1 Terastodon
SB: 2 Show and Tell
SB: 2 Duress
SB: 3 Nature's Claim
SB: 4 Ravenous Trap
SB: 2 Tormod's Crypt
SB: 1 Bribery

26 mana sources is pretty high. But as Brad pointed out to me, there are quite a
few decks whose objective is to attack the manabase. Having such a high count of
mana means not collapsing when the opponent draws a wasteland. More to the
point, in an era of constant Drain mirror matches, you want to have a smaller
mana-base. Every card you draw ought to be powerful, and control mirrors can
lead to the person who floods losing. But many decks today punish greedy mana
bases. Fish is better than it has ever been before, and Workshop decks just got
a very powerful new card. Better to be on the safe side, and then board out
lands against control if needed.

Then there is Bribery, taken right out of my EDH deck. Brad came up with this
clever concept, and it won me two matches. If opponents insist on shoving 9/7s
into their decks, we might as well take advantage of them.

Nature's Claim was solid. The logic behind running this over the alternatives
like Hurkyl's Recall is simple: Costing one mana is much better than costing two
mana. When the opponent's plan is to lock you out with Sphere effects, that one
mana can make all the difference in the world.

The above-noted cards are nice, of course. But really, there are similar cards
that would function in a not-too-different manner. But then there is Terastodon.
There is nothing else like him in Magic. He can give you 18 power all at once.
He can remove an opponent's lands. He can remove your own Oath when it no longer
seems like a good card to have in play. During the course of the day, I gave
myself 3 elephants; I gave my opponent 3 elephants; and I used every combination
in between. I realize that the arrival of Terastodon into the world lead to a
thread on TMD joking about him. But my opponents who watched their mana bases
being torn apart weren't quite so amused. And really, what is a Fish deck going
to do about you having 18 power divided among 4 creatures?

My only hesitation regarding this deck is that it scoops to Ali from Cairo.


Round 1: Dan Luchesa with Fish
Game 1: I Force Dan's Thoughtseize and Ancestral. Next turn, I get out an Oath.
My first Oath creature is Terastodon who eats one or two of Dan's land, and Iona
soon follows.
Game 2: Dan Mulligans and leads with a Basic Forest. I get an Ancestral and then
Lat-Nam's Legacy. Dan gets down a Goyf and starts attacking, but I find and
resolve Tinker before things get out of hand. DSC goes the distance.

Round 2: Mark Trogdon with Workshop Aggro
Game 1: Mark goes first. I get down an early Oath which wins me the game.
Game Two was the best game of Magic I've played in a while. Mark opens with MWS,
dropping Pithing Needle naming Time Vault. Mark, of course, could not see my
hand; but I was in line for a turn-two Time Vault win if he hadn't done that. I
Strip Mine Mark's Workshop, but he has plenty more mana where that came from. He
gets out a Jester's Cap and Pops it. Three of my four monsters are removed. I
have all four in, and so a single Capping won't halt my Oath plan. However, Mark
has a second Cap. Mark activates the Cap. I respond by casting Mystical Tutor
for Bribery, then popping Top to put it into my hand. Now I am all-in on my
Bribery to get this game. Mark has a few Spirit Tokens and a few Man-Lands, but
no serious threats. He does, however, have three Spheres on the table. I tutor
for Academy, and the Bribe one of Mark's men. He had only Golems and Trikes, so
of course I take Trike. Mark Pithing Needles Triskelion. But between counters,
Strip Mine, and Claims, I can keep Mark's board clear so am getting through with
Triskelion. Finally, when things look more cluttered, I cast Yawgmoth's Will,
replay Strip Mine, and Bribe another Triskelion. The 4/4s get there.

Round 3: Steve Rubin with UR Fish
Game 1: Steve Dazes through a Selkie and starts drawing cards.Shaman eats some
of my Moxen. Then Oath hits. Steve bounces my Colossus, but when I make three
Elephants for myself, there is nothing he can do.
Game 2: Steve has a first-turn Magus of the Moon and Gorilla Shaman. My hand has
no basics and I can't get my mana together in time before being run over.
Game 3: This game is brutal. Steve Pierces my Vampiric Tutor. He FOrces my Oath.
I Mystical for Ancestral because I have run out of gas. I then YawgWill to
replay Ancestral because I had no more gas. But my Tezzeret hits a REB and Steve
is starting to assemble a board when time is called.

Round 4: Kris with BUG Fish
Game 1: I have the dumb draw of a first-turn Oath with Orchard. I give my fellow
CMU student 2 Elephants and give myself one token. DSC joins the party next turn
and it ends.
Game 2: Kris mulligans down to five and I use Spell Pierce to get down an Oath.
He buys a turn by Darkblasting a Token, but I win next turn.

Round 5: Jerry Yang with Two Card Monte
Jerry did not come all the way to Pittsburgh to draw.
Game 1: Jerry Mulligans to 5 while I assemble Time Vault.
Game 2: Jerry double-Powders and I keep. Turn-Zero Leyline hits on his side. He
Consults for MWS, playing a Helm into my Force. I then play Oath and replace all
of his mana sources with Elephants.

Top 8: Jason Pare with Tezzeret
Game 1: I have a bunch of mana. I cast Lat-Nam's Legacy and shuffle away an
Orchard, only to draw two more land next turn. I guess running so much mana is
bound to catch up with me at some point.
Game 2: I Mulligan a hand with Emerald and no other mana. My next hand has two
Orchards and a Sea for mana. I'm still at 3 land for a while, while Jason has an
increasing collection of Orchard tokens. I have Oath in hand, but Jason has
suspended a Gargadon. I manage to Tinker out a Colossus. Jason plays Tezzeret,
who gets Time Vault before Colossus kills him. I then regrow Duress and take his
Tinker. Eventually, I win.
Game 3: I have a second turn Oath, and Pierce it through. I get Colossus who
gets bounced back to my hand. I then Oath up Iona, and name blue. But I've
milled most of my library at this point and I start to become concerned about
decking. All of my counters are gone, and Jason has a Leyline in play. Meaning
that, despite Iona, if he gets his hands on a Helm, I lose. I am also getting
low on life from Orchard tokens, and have no way to stop the suspended Gargadon
Jason has. But then I draw Bribery and that gives me another giant monster for
the win.

Top 4: Jerry Yang Again
Game 1: Jerry opens with a Leyline. I Ponder and then Strip Mine his land. I
then Tinker for DSC. I Force the lethal Helm he plays and then attack for 11.
However, I can't stop the Painter and Grindstone that he assembles next turn and
I die.
Game 2: Jerry Mulls to five. His hand doesn't go anywhere and his lands become
elephants soon.
Game 3: Jerry Mulligans to five again. I Force his Ancestral. He Tinkers up
Titan, but Nature claims that Titan. Then Elephants happen.

Finals vs Steve Rubin Again
Game 1: Rubin has Brainstorm, and then Gorilla Shaman. Rubin counters all of my
threats and kills me with a bit of help from Reckless Charge.
Game 2: I get down an early Oath.
Game 3: Rubin counters the Ancestral that my Scroll got with REB. I get down
Oath, and Rubin Tinkers into an Inkwell Leviathan. I am pleased to Oath up my
giant Elephant, and then destroy my own Islands to avoid dying to Islandwalk.
The next Oathing brings Iona who wins the game as a flying creature.

Final Thoughts
The deck did everything I hoped it would do, and was very well-suited to the
metagame. The current state of Vintage is one of flux, so a deck that works well
one week may not work so well the next. But I was quite happy with how this
performed today.

Props to Team R+D for making this deck with me. Specific props to Brad, Marius,
Jeff, Duncan, Guus, and Chris.
Props to Ron for running a great event. I was particularly impressed with how
professionally Ron acted as a judge. When he was uncertain of a ruling, he took
the time to look up the relevant rules. I checked once I got home, and he was
correct on both rulings that he made.
Props to the guys who went with me from CMU. I know that Vintage isn't a format
you play that often, but I hoped that you enjoyed giving it a try.
Finally, props to the members of the Vintage community who showed up. Brian, it
was good finally to meet you. Everyone else, great playing, hanging out, and
going to dinner after. It's that sort of thing that makes Vintage the awesome
format, and community, that it is.