This is going to be a tournament report about a real-life, live, sanctioned
12-person Vintage tournament at Mr Nice Guy Games in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Before I get there, however, I wanted to take a moment to talk about Magic
Online. No, this won't be my continuing to grouse about its technical
shortcomings -- I've made those clear elsewhere. Instead, I'd like to highlight
one of the important social consequences of opening up Vintage on Magic Online:
the return of long-retired Vintage wizards.

I had not initially planned to get involved in Magic Online. I have a thesis to
work on, and I have enough other distractions in life. No need for an extra
time-sink, I had thought. However, slowly but surely, I began to see more and
more old-school Vintage players appear on Magic Online. There are the
still-playing wizards like Shockwave and Smmenen and Klep. But there have also
been wizards that I have not seen playing Vintage in a very long time, including
Kowal and Zherbus. They seem never to have lost their spark for the game -- only
their occasion to play. And as I saw more and more of the folks that made this
game so enjoyable a decade ago re-emerging for Online Vintage, I realized that
it would only be a matter of time before I bought in myself.

Well, maybe bought in is too strong. I traded in. I have invested few if any
dollars in Magic Online; instead, I shifting extra paper cards into digital
objects. At any rate, though, I've been playing more and more Online Vintage.
And while Magic Online is a poor program, Vintage Magic is a stellar game.

Because of the old-school nature of many of the newly risen Vintage players, it
should not be any surprise that a deck whose primer I first published on this
website a decade ago has also returned with new life. That deck is Control
Slaver. And if you want a historical background on the deck, and the most
comprehensive account of it that has been written, I highly suggest browsing
through the dusty, timeworn pages of my primer:

Control Slaver was a powerful deck until that fateful day that Wizards took a
sledgehammer to Vintage, restricting all of the Blue draw and engine staples in
the format at once. It would not be long after that massacre that Vintage itself
started to wane in popularity, and I don't think the two are unrelated --
though, again, that is a matter for another post. The fact remains that Control
Slaver relied on having access to full sets of Brainstorms and Thirsts for
Knowledge, and Wizards yanked both away, leaving the deck unplayable.

When Dack Faden was previewed, I and a number of other Vintage players were
excited. Surely, this Planeswalker would let us play with our Goblin Welders
again, right? And we tried. I told those who asked that I was sure there was a
good build involving Dack, but I hadn't found it yet. Others tried to build
around Dack with some success, including Tom Dixon, who put up a solid result
with Control Slaver featuring Strix and Gush. But none of the builds were quite
where they needed to be.

Not until, that is, ancient Vintage wizard and occasional trashcan enthusiast
Ben Kowal figured out how to take all of the disparate pieces available to
Vintage players today and assemble them into one cohesive contraption: Night's
Whisper Control Slaver. Using Night's Whisper in Control Slaver is not something
new. I had made the first build of the deck, many years ago. However, I never
managed to make the deck put up results. Demonic Attorney took down some
tournaments with it, but I never did so. Until today, that is.

TMD Progenitor Zherbus and I had both been riffing on Kowal's build, having been
fairly happy with it on Magic Online. Zherbus and I were up until around 3am
last night working on the finer points of constructing the deck, and we both
ended up very happy with the results. Here is the list that we came up with,
heavily influenced by Kowal's work:

2 Goblin Welder
2 Baleful Strix

2 Dack Fayden

1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Mindslaver
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Mental Misstep
1 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
2 Fire/Ice
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Pyroblast

1 Ponder
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Night's Whisper
1 Brainstorm
1 Sensei's Divining Top

1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor

1 Tinker
1 Yawgmoth's Will

1 Island
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

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

3 Ingot Chewer
1 Flusterstorm
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Pyroblast
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Mountain
1 Shattering Spree
1 Pyroclasm
1 Toxic Deluge

The goal of this deck is to generate heaps of card advantage, while having a
reasonably high threat count. The color requires are fairly intensive, and no
one is claiming that this deck is the best thing in the format. It does have
advantages over other blue decks when fighting against Workshop decks, however.
Further, since the "shell" of the deck has a relatively small footprint, Control
Slaver has a good bit of room for metagame adaption, and simply changing the
deck based on personal preference. This is a deck that can be adapted to what
you expect to face, and moreover, what sort of deck you enjoy playing.

Now, on to the tournament report. The tournament itself took place at Mr Nice
Guy Games in Monroeville (near Pittsburgh), PA. The store owner, Ron, has done a
lot for the Eternal Magic scene in Pittsburgh, hosting weekly Legacy
tournaments, as well as larger Vintage and Legacy tournaments. His events are
always a blast, and the store itself is clean and comfortable.

Round One: Steve Rubin with "cheeky red" Pro Tour Competitor Steve Rubin built a
homebrew deck, and it was a powerful one. His deck Featured some conventional
cards like Magus of the Moon and Lodestone Golem. He also ran Liquimetal
Coating, which is best friends with Dack.

game 1: I open on Black Lotus into double Night's Whisper. Rubin has Ancestral
Recall, while Dack arrives on my side. I Force his Magus of the Moon, and Dack
feeds the Yawgmoth's Will that I cast next turn.

game 2: I start with a Mulligan, and Mental Misstep Rubin's Welder. I Brainstorm
hoping to hit a second land drop, but Brainstorm-Lock myself as Lodestone and
his friend Other Lodestone beat me to death.

game 3: Rubin mulligans this game, but he does have a first turn Magus of the
Moon. Fortunately, Magus doesn't stop me from hard-casting a Myr Battlesphere,
who wins me the game.

Round Two: Steve with Green White Hatebears. Steve is getting into Vintage, and
only has a Pearl for power. In his previous round, he defeated the Eric, the
other person to bring White Hatebars to the tournament, primarily because Steve
ran Tarmogoyf.

game 1: I lead with Strip Mine, Jet, and Night's Whisper. Steve has Aether Vial,
and I have Mana Crypt into Tinker for Myr. I Mental Misstep Steve's Path to
Exile and we are on to game two.

game 2: Steve leads with Gaddok Teeg. I Merchant Scroll for Ancestral, but Steve
has David Bowie on his side, no doubt upset that I opted not to play Dance Magic
Dance this week. However, I Vampiric Tutor for Pyroclasm, and that's the end for
everyone's favorite Glam Rock icon the Kithkin Advisor. From there, while Steve
is casting Cats who Hate Library Searching, I'm assembling Jace and Strix and
Welder. The game doesn't last much longer.

Round Three: Ron Kotwica, Mr Nice Guy Himself. Ron is playing an old-school
Keeper deck, featuring gorgeous beta moxen. It's nice to see Kaervek's Torch
teaming up with Balance and The Abyss again.

game 1: The thing to understand about Ron is that he hates going to Paris. I've
seen him keep no-lander hands in Standard -- and win. So the fact that Ron went
to six cards this game was shocking. He missed a bunch of land drops and I had
plenty of time to set up Tinker.

game 2: Ron goes to five cards for the first time in his life, and I have
Library. Ron wasn't really in this game, sadly.

Round Four: Cameron on Control Slaver. Apparently, Cameron decided to play
Control Slaver because he read that I had been doing well with it on MODO. It
worked out for him since, *spoiler*, he and I would meet in the finals.

game 1: Cameron has a first-turn Ancestral. I follow up that powerful spell of
his with my own restricted power-house, Ponder. Cameron casts Brainstorm, but I
have Time Walk (in Exploration mode) and Night's Whisper. Cameron Wastes a land
of mine and then casts Jace. I have the Pyroblast for his Jace (which is what I
put it in the deck to do), and after trading Forces the Planeswalker dies.
Cameron stops my Ancestral, but I assemble Top and Dack. Cameron then has his
own Dack and a Goblin Welder to go with it. I cast a desperation Yawgmoth's
Will, but it does little beyond drawing me some cards and letting me Pyroblast
his Dack. Cameron hardcasts Mindslaver on his turn, but doesn't have the mana to
activate it. Nor does he have an artifact in his graveyard to Weld it out --
this is relevant as I dig into a Dack on my turn and steal his Mindslaver with
Dack. I don't have the mana to activate the Mindslaver either, so I have to pass
the turn. I Force Cameron's Yawgmoth Will, but his Hurkyl's Recall resolves,
giving him the Mindslaver back. But (sensing a theme here?) he can't play and
activate it that turn either. On my turn, I get my own Mindslaver and can
activate it. Cameron concedes when I explain that I can use his Goblin Welder to
perpetuate the Mindslaving.

game 2: After a very intense first game, we don't have much time for a second
game. But, we do manage to finish it. I Mulligan, and Cameron has Brainstorm.
Cameron Red Blasts my Tinker, and I Pyroblast a spell of his, possibly Dack.
Eventually, I hardcast a Mindslaver and activate it. I make Cameron cast
Yawgmoth's Will, use Izzet Charm to discard some important spells, Mental
Misstep another of his own spells, and put garbage on top with Brainstorm. After
that, it was easy for me to win the game.

Round 5: Scooping Scotty into the Top Four

Top Four: Scotty on Terra Nova. The Play-Draw rule does a lot in Vintage. The
matchup of Blue against Workshops is very draw-dependent, and that was apparent
here for certain.

game 1: I assemble a first-turn Jace. Not to be out done, Scotty has two
Porcelain Legionnaires and a Chalice at one. I Tinker up a Myr Battlesphere and
Fire both of the Legionnaires. Scotty has a Revoker and for Jace and a Lodestone
Golem. The Great Thief in the Multiverse arrives and takes the Golem, and that's
the game.

game 2: Scotty opens with a Thorn and a chalice at one. I use a Sea to cast a
Mox, but Scotty Wastes the Sea. Scotty has a ratchet bomb. I'm hobbled
mana-wise, but Scotty can't draw a threat to put the game away. After a lot of
playing draw-go, I cast Jace. Basic Mountain was an all-star here. By the time
Scotty finds a Lodestone golem, I have everyone's favorite Gambit-Cosplay
Enthusiast to steal him once again.

Finals: Cameron, once again, still on Control Slaver.

game 1: I have a Ponder off Underground Sea. Cameron follows suite, though with
a much nicer black-border Sea. I fail to bait a counter with Goblin Welder, but
Cameron does Force my Ancestral. He has Strix, while I have Night's Whisper. I
Mental Misstep his Goblin Welder, and he Drains my Strix. I resolve a Dack, and
use Timewalk as a combined Exploration and Faithless Looting. I Force Cameron's
Jace. I then Tinker into Lotus and resolve Yawgmoth's Will.

game 2: I'm surprised and unhappy with Cameron opens with a Leyline of the Void
in this game. He also has Brainstorm, Mox, and a Sol Ring. I have a fetchland.
Cameron plays and land and passes, while I have a Night's Whisper. I cast a
Nihil Spellbomb, mentioning that his Leyline has shut the card off. Cameron
Vamps for a Tezzeret, which I Pyroblast. Wasteland takes me to two land, but I
can still Mental Misstep his Ancestral. I'm at seven, and Brainstorm into
nothing. The next turn, I Ponder into a land, use Scroll to find Ancestral. I
Force Cameron's Top, and he forces my Ancestral. Dack, however, does arrive on
my side, and I steal a Sol Ring. I Force his Jace, and then Tinker into


I was very happy with the deck, finishing 6-0 in played matches and 12-1 in

I ran Pyroblast over Red Element Blast in the hopes of using them with Dack's
ultimate, but it never happened. On the bright side, Dack's thefts today
included Sol Ring, two Golems, and even a Mindslaver.

Props to Tom Dixon for proving that Dack Slaver is viable, and for Kowal for
making the first build of the deck that I actually felt happy with. Props to
Zherbus for staying up late last night working on this build with me. Props to
all of my opponents today, who were a blast to play with. And thanks to Ron for
running this great event.

Rich Shay