Vintage. Champion.

    Two words could not possibly evoke in me a more powerful lust for victory.
Pro Tour Champion? There are several a year. Vintage Champion means mastery of
the oldest and most skill-testing format in Magic, a long day of showing off
car-values of individual cards, and enjoyable matches against opponents who are
almost invariably mature, well-established, and dedicated enough to be
interested in and afford vintage.

    Needless to say I was interested in Eternal Weekend 2015. I was dismayed to
fall short of winning the event, but I'm proud of a 15th-place finish with
Chromium Bomberman (obviously the oldest format uses the Elder Dragons to name
color combinations), and hopefully I can entertain you with this report. My
    3 Trinket Mage
    2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
    2 Monastery Mentor
    2 Auriok Salvagers

    1 Ancestral Recall
    1 Hurkyl's Recall
    2 Swords to Plowshares
    4 Force of Will
    4 Mental Misstep
    1 Flusterstorm
    1 Spell Snare
    1 Brainstorm
    2 Dig Through Time
    1 Vampiric Tutor

    1 Time Walk
    1 Ponder
    2 Preordain
    1 Treasure Cruise
    1 Demonic Tutor

    1 Engineered Explosives
    1 Nihil Spellbomb
    1 Sensei's Divining Top
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Sapphire
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Black Lotus
    1 Sol Ring
    1 Mana Crypt

    2 Polluted Delta
    4 Flooded Strand
    3 Tundra
    2 Underground Sea
    1 Island
    1 Plains
    2 Cavern of Souls
    1 Tolarian Academy

    // Sideboard
    1 Hurkyl's Recall
    1 Swords to Plowshares
    2 Engineered Explosives
    2 Engineered Plague
    1 Devout Witness
    2 Disenchant
    1 Karakas
    1 Grafdigger's Cage
    4 Containment Priest

    Papa Tusk Sean O'Brien (O'Brien School of Magic founder, worshipper of
Mishra) emailed me approximately 3 minutes after Eternal Weekend 2015 was
officially announced and had rooms for Team Tusk (#tuskup) booked by day end.
Yeah he was looking forward to this too. I am not as organized and booked my
flights a rather desultory couple months later. That didn't stop me from testing
though! I had been solidly on Raka (URw) Delver since before GP Vegas in June,
but the winning VSL deck, Grixis Cabal Therapy Control, seemed like a better
version, and the aggro Workshops ("robots") dominating Northeast events also
seemed like a miserable matchup. Oh, and it just didn't feel "vintage" enough.
That left me floundering. Was I really going to subject myself to playing
Workshops again after my miserable performance last year? I'd been noticing some
errant Bomberman sightings in top 8s (GP Atlantic City most notably), and the
deck looked sweet, but that archetype hasn't been good since...well, ever right?

    Fortunately the NYSE Open had an awesome turnout with great decks in the top
8. Brian Ritter (note that name) made the quarters with another Esper Bomberman
place. Ok, that list was untuned, but it's worth a shot, and there was some
solid theory behind the deck. For a while the best decks have been Bolt-based
aggro-control or combo-control decks, so Cavern of Souls and creatures with
greater than 3 toughness like Auriok Salvagers and Tasigur, the Golden Fang are
all individually good against them. High-mana combo-control decks traditionally
have decent-to-good Shops matchups because they have so many mana sources, and
even-to-decent Dredge matchups because they can race Dredge sometimes and afford
to overload on hate. So that's a significant portion of the field that on paper
should be strategically vulnerable to Bomberman, assuming I could find a
consistent and powerful build.

    With that in mind, I cut the inconsistent or underpowered 1-ofs from
Ritter's list like Thought Scour and Thirst for Knowledge, added a powerful
backup plan of 2 Monastery Mentor, and added cheaper, powerful cards like
Preordain and Dig Through Time. In testing with the local Seattle vintage crew,
the deck was crushing everything we threw at it (once we fixed the Shops board).
After going 3-1 in the monthly sanctioned Vintage FNM (shoutouts to Mox Boarding
House for running this great monthly event!), losing only to some guy Randy
Buehler who ran back the deck he won this VSL thing with, I was sold on the

    I flew in Thursday night on the red-eye to catch the amazing Old School
tournament. Trying to figure out the train at 7 AM was...not ideal, but I made
up for it by eating a pound of corned beef for breakfast at Hershel's Deli,
visiting the Liberty Bell and Mint in morning, and fixing my sleep schedule by
rendering myself comatose by 9 PM local time through a combination of sleep
deprivation and jagerbombs (Jaco is the fucking man).

    Hershel's Deli. I love Philly.

    Vintage is dead, long live Vintage! The oldest and deadest format roared
with new life in the biggest Vintage tournament ever, host to the biggest
collection of power in one room since being printed. Once drops were taken into
account, 458 players showed up to play 10 rounds of Magic with individual cards
worth more than Modern decks. I joined the fray.

    Round 1 - Zohar Bhagat on URw Landstill
    Zohar set the theme for my opponents being polite, intelligent, and
well-socialized. What a refreshing change from even Legacy, much less Modern or
    Game 1 he led off with Library of Alexandria. I actually thought it was
Bazaar of Baghdad (I guess they look similar?) and Preordained some cards to the
bottom, but fortunately they sucked and I realized it when he Stripped my land.
I quickly determined the only way to win against a UR Landstill deck with active
Library is to combo with Cavern. So I Demonic Tutored for Salvagers, Trinked
Maged for Lotus, and played Top to search for a Cavern. Hit! I was a little
nervous when he Forced Lotus and Wasted my only white source, but I quickly
found another and killed him.
    -1 Vampiric Tutor, -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Misstep, -1 Swords to Plowshares
    +2 Disenchant, +1 Devout Witness, +1 Engineered Explosives.
    Boarding out Mental Misstep was a misstep in retrospect, but I didn't see a
Tundra game 1 and expected mostly Bolts and Sudden Shocks, which I didn't really
care about. Null Rod is a huge problem and expected.
    Game 2 he again led on Library! That's powerful, but my turn 1 Mentor off of
Lotus, play Mox, land, with Misstep, Ponder, and Ancestral in hand was better. I
Pondered into second land plus Flusterstorm, won the counter war on my Recall
and his removal with the Flusterstorm, and won from there.
    1-0, 2-0

    Round 2 - Jeremy Beaver on UWR Splinter Twin / Mentor
    An interesting deck, and he's had some success with it. He said he got a top
16 at NYSE Open, and the Legacy Splinter Twin top 8 adds some legitimacy to this
plan in my mind.
    Game 1 was bizarre. Both of us had serious mana issues - I flooded horribly
drawing 7 lands plus 4 mana rocks, and he was a bit flooded with 6+ mana
sources, but only one red source. He had been holding one card in hand for a
long time and won the counter war on my Swords to Plowshares on Deceiver Exarch
turns ago, so it was probably Twin. I think I made a mistake by Forcing Mentor
when he had 2 unknowns in hand (1 likely Twin)? I had the kill the turn after he
ripped a Steam Vents for the lethal combo, so probably my mistake.
    -1 Vampiric Tutor, -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -?, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +1
Devout Witness, +2 Engineered Plague
    Game 2 I thought for sure I was going to lose to a turn 2 Mentor with a
couple of follow-up spells. I played my underwhelming Trinket Mage for a Mox to
fix my mana, followed up by a Devout Witness the next turn. Oh, then he attacked
a Mentor and 2 tokens into my board of 2 Gray Ogres. Guess he hasn't played much
limited. I called his bluff of 3 instants or a removal spell with 4 cards in
hand by double blocking Mentor. He did have a Wear for his Crypt, but Mentor
traded with Devout Witness! My deck is mono-Gray Ogres with upside. Trinket Mage
and a Tasigur held off the tokens, and Tasigur's ability turns out to be
relevant in non-combo situations too. I won with a Mentor eventually.
    Game 3 I had a turn 2 Mentor. He played to an out of comboing off with
Deceiver-Twin, but a Force I drew off of Dig Through Time held it off, and
Engineered Plague on Cleric locked the game the next turn.
    2-0, 4-1

    Round 3 - Kyle Dorgan on UR Delver
    Game 1 I had a sick hand. Turn 1 spew mana with some counterspells in
reserve. Turn 2 I topdeck and play Salvagers. He countered Black Lotus a few
times, then succumbed to infinite mana + Tasigur.
    -1 Vampiric Tutor, -1 Mox Ruby, -1 Hurkyl's Recall, +2 Engineered Plague, +1
Swords to Plowshares
    Game 2 he looked like he was getting close to Dig mana, and in testing the
game usually is lost after the first Dig on even board. So I played Nihil
Spellbomb. He Misstepped, I Misstepped, he Pyroblasted, I Forced pitching
Cruise, but he Flusterstormed. Well, that left me Plow and Engineered Plague in
hand. He did cast Mana Crypt, Mentor, and Dig, but I cast Engineered Plague on
Monk and Plowed his Mentor. Then he lost 6 of 8 Mana Crypt flips, and lost to it
with three 1/1 Monastery Mentors for lethal on board while I had drawn nothing.
    3-0, 6-1

    Round 4 - Brian Ritter on The Answer
    The Answer is a strange UR Blood Moon / Chalice of the Void deck from
Europe. Brian Ritter is the guy whose list I based mine off of. This was
certainly going to be interesting.
    Game 1 he got a turn 1 Jace off of Lotus and Mox. I didn't have a Force.
Jace was quickly joined by Dack Fayden. I showed him UWB lands and Demonic
Tutor, then died to Trinket Mage beats while Chalice locked me out.
    -2 Mental Misstep, -2 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Hurkyl's Recall, +1 Devout
Witness, +2 Disenchant
    I think I should actually have boarded out all 4 Misstep first, but I wasn't
totally sure about the list.
    Game 2 he again got an early Dack against my lackluster hand with no Forces.
Dack completely took over the game, and a Blood Moon that was forced through
shut off EE outs to his Chalice on 0 and 1.
    3-1, 6-3

    Round 5 - Benjamin Guillerm on UW Landstill
    Ben was a French expat living in Texas, and amazingly the second landstill
opponent I played.
    Game 1 he played a quick Standstill. I broke it with a Monastery Mentor. He
Forced and I passed. He Wasted two lands, which was just fine to enable my
Tasigur. I played Tasigur, he Drained it. Alright. I exiled Tasigur, Mentor, and
tapped 4 mana sources to play Tasigur. That seemed solid against his Monastery
Mentor. I battled in and activated Tasigur a couple times, spilling Auriok
Salvagers, and got back a Trinket Mage. Ben Plowed Tasigur. Fine. Trinket Mage
for Engineered Explosives. Trinks held off the tokens. Play Salvagers. He Plowed
it. He played another Mentor, so I managed to get sick value by attacking my
Trinket Mage into his board of 2 Mentors and 1 Monk token, he blocked with the
token, and I played and cracked EE for 3 to wipe the board. I think he had
forgotten about the EE. Only problem now was finding one of my two remaining
threats to win the game! I found a Mentor a couple turns later and won quickly.
    -1 Hurkyl's Recall, +1 Devout Witness
    Game 2 he Forced my turn 1 Sensei's Divining Top that I played as bait for
my Ancestral Recall. Turn 2 I Recall. Turn 3 I played Mentor and Missteped a
Swords to Plowshares in response to my EE for 0. His turn 4 he played a Null
Rod, but it did nothing.
    4-1, 8-3

    Round 6 - Brian Kelly on BomberOath
    Yeah, I lost to the eventual winner. I guess if I had to pick up my second
loss, this one would sting the least.
    Game 1 was an interesting one. I wasn't sure what he was on when he
mulliganned and on the draw led on a turn 1 cantrip, so I Trinket Maged for
Black Lotus. His follow-up Oath was a problem. I had a Demonic Tutor, Black
Lotus, Monastery Mentor, Preordain, Mental Misstep in hand, and a Sea, a Tundra,
and 2 other mana in play. I could have Tutored for EE, played it for 2, and
cracked it, got a Salvagers and passed, or played a Mentor, DT for Time Walk,
and hope to rip a spell. I decided on the Mentor line, but what do you guys
think is correct here? As it turns out, I left him at 5, Misstepped a Recall,
but Griselbrand then Dromoka held off my Mentor tokens until Salvagers killed
    Boarding is hard. -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Dig
Through Time, -1 Tasigur, -1 Mentor, -1 Plains, +1 Karakas, +1 Grafdigger's
Cage, +4 Containment Priest
    Game 2 my hand was a little loose - a Cage, a Priest, and mana sources.
Although my hate was shutting off his Oath, he got down an early Dack Fayden,
and the card quality took over the game. He Sudden Shocked my Priest,
Spellbombed another, landed Jace, and won in a few turns by simply casting
Auriok Salvagers and comboing off. RIP the dream. Ah well, guess I'll stay in it
for the glory.
    Kelly's deck seems very interesting and the Bomberman plan is a good backup.
Like most of his decks though, the numbers seem a bit off. However, #scoreboard.
    4-2, 8-5

    Round 7 - Brett Attmore on BUG Fish
    I was somewhat dispirited coming into the match, but cheered up when I
realized that it's unlikely I would be facing one of the remaining players as
strong as the two I lost to. I haven't been playing sanctioned Vintage once a
month for nothing, time to show there's a new vintage ringer in town!
    Game 1 he had a slower draw with a Deathrite. I played around his Wastelands
by fetching basics, Forced his Tasigur, and eventually won with an unkillable
Giant Spider with upside.
    -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Vampiric Tutor, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Devout
    Game 2 he seemed very far ahead when he got to Snapcast the Ancestral Recall
I countered, but Trinket Mage held off the assault until I found a Cavern of
Souls to force through the combo. A deck full of un-Decayable threats, a decent
manabase, a virtually unbeatable card in Mentor, and even a combo that isn't
stopped by Deathrite Shaman makes this matchup a virtual bye.
    5-2, 10-5

    Round 8 - Dave Kaplan on Grixis Delver
    I knew I recognized the name, but couldn't remember from where. After the
match, I looked up his name on TCDecks and found that he's been jamming Gush
Aggro to reasonable success for years. Fitting.
    We had an incredibly interesting game 1 that went long, but Dave seemed
quite tired and I believe made suboptimal attacking and blocking decisions. My
hand was very strange - two Auriok Salvagers with Cavern of Souls, and some
counterspells. His hand was also somewhat strange - no early creatures or
Planeswalkers, only some cantrips. I made a couple of 2/4s for 4 and started
getting aggressive. Eventually I drew an Engineered Explosives, and started
wiping his board of Pyromancers, Delvers, Snapcasters, and tokens repeatedly
using Salvagers in fair mode while I beat down. He at first thought he was on
the beatdown, but by the time he realized he was not, I never gave him
profitable blocks thanks to EE.
    -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Vampiric Tutor, -1 Mox Emerald, -1 Force of Will, +1
Devout Witness, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +2 Engineered Plague
    Game 2 I kind of have the nut - Black Lotus, Mox, fetch, fetch, Tasigur,
Engineered Plague, Preordain. Engineered Plague is the literal hard-lock against
the Grixis and UR creature decks - all of their creatures are X/1 humans. Their
only hope is to have a pile of Elemental tokens or a flipped Delver, all of
which die to EE on 0. Dave had a strong opening of Probe into Therapy, and
tanked on which to take - Tasigur or Engineered Plague? He clearly hadn't needed
to think about the creature types in his deck. He did go with the correct
choice, taking Plague. I am a savage lucksack and Preordained into the second
copy, slammed it in play, and he conceded.
    6-2, 12-5

    Round 9 - Mark Hornung, Jr on Dredge
    I had heard of this guy. Pretty sure he won a Vintage Champs with Dredge.
Once he Serum Powder Mulliganned on the play, I was sure of it.
    Game 1 he Serum Powdered twice. I mulliganned a fine hand with counterspells
for a great 6 - Sea, Vampiric, Preordain, Island, Force, Dig. He started the
dredge thing going, I Preordained and kept a Misstep. On his turn 2, I was
seriously concerned about just dying - he had dredgers plus land plus
Fatestitcher - but bricked on Bloodghasts in the first two dredges (before
playing the land) and any Narcomoebas. To be fair, he had exiled two Narcs and a
Bloodghast to Powder, and discarded another Narc from hand. In my upkeep, I
Tutored for Nihil Spellbomb and played it. He was dismayed. After another few
dredges, his library was very close to being depleted, and I had Tasigur on
defense, I thought a win right there. He made an excellent play of attacking his
one Ichorid into my Tasigur, which I obviously block. He activated Bazaar before
damage, dumping a second Bridge and a Bloodghast. Land, Dread Return Elesh Norn
set him up for lethal next turn with Ichorids. I had one turn to draw a white
source for the Swords in my hand...and did! He scooped with 2 cards left in
    -1 Dig Through Time, -1 Sensei's Divining Top, -1 Plains, -1 Monastery
Mentor, -1 Tasigur, -1 Spell Snare, -1 Flusterstorm, -1 Hurkyl's Recall, +4
Containment Priest, +1 Grafdigger's Cage, +1 Karakas, +1 Swords to Plowshares,
+1 Engineered Explosives
    I brought in the Karakas as a hedge in case he had the Dark Depths board,
and Legacy Dredge games have taught me that Swords is fine.
    To sum up these two games:

    Game 2 I kept an Island as my only mana source with no cantrips, but plenty
of counterspells and a Containment Priest. I brick on the white source, and
played long enough to see how he has boarded before dying to Flame-Kin Zealot
and friends while concealing my hand. He had mis-evaluated the hate that I would
bring in - I saw two Barbarian Rings and a bunch of Chewers and Nature's Claims.
Perfect. I saw he didn't sideboard between games two and three.
    Game 3 I again kept a greedy hand, but this time I could actually cast my
hate. Lotus, 2x Containment Priest, Force, Ponder, Misstep, Dig Through Time. He
asked if it was another greedy hand while I was tanking, but was definitely
surprised I just said "Go" on my turn 1. If I drew any mana source, I could get
two Priests into play, which he would have a huge amount of difficulty actually
dealing with. I didn't, so had to sweat with only one Priest in play attacking
while he activated Bazaar and found...nothing. About the most action was Forcing
an Ingot Chewer which would have produced a Zombie. Eventually I started drawing
lands, then a Cage and a third Priest. At no point was he able to profitably
dredge, and I kept a no-lander. Sweet.
    7-2, 14-6

    Round 10 - Peter White on Thoughtcast Mentors
    At this point I was feeling doggedly determined to win despite how fatigued
I was. My opponent looked like he had a hard day - no wonder, given the time
difference from London!
    Game 1 I opened the most busted hand all day - fetch, Mox, Lotus, Salvagers,
Tasigur, Mentor, Swords to Plowshares. On the play, he dropped a Seat of the
Synod, two Moxes, and played Thoughtcast. Weird. Steel City Vault? After drawing
another land for turn, I tanked for a bit on whether to play Mentor in case he
has Force, or Salvagers. I decided that I should just put him on a 1-turn clock
with Salvagers, since if he's playing a combo deck I could just be dead next
turn. He didn't have the Force that turn. On his next turn he played Academy and
Thoughtcast again, then shipped. I went infinite, and although he Forced my
Tasigur, I dropped Mentor, made infinite tokens, and Plowed a token to gain
infinite life. He scooped to that.
    -2 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Spell Snare, -1 Plains, +1 Hurkyl's Recall, +2
Disenchant, +1 Grafdigger's Cage
    Game 2 he dropped a turn 2 Monastery Mentor. I looked at my sideboard. Yup,
3 Swords to Plowshares looking back at me. Guess I misevaluated the matchup!
That's ok, I had a quick (turn 2) Salvagers off of Lotus and Cavern. He swung
in, played another Mentor and Walked, and put me dead on board. Then I used
infinite mana + Salvagers + EE to wipe his entire board. Every turn. For the
rest of the game while I beat down with shitty creatures to death.
    Final record: 8-2, 16-6 (72% GWP)

    15th! After picking up two early losses, I was elated to simply make top 16!
My opponents were fierce, and if I had to lose, being defeated by the eventual
winner and one of the first people to play my archetype to a top 8 is not so
bad. The most notable thing to me was that I never played Shops once! I only
played against one Dredge deck, and besides that mostly fair-ish blue decks. A
strange set of matchups for sure.

    Going forwards I know that I want to make some changes. The majority of the
games I lost were to blue planeswalkers landing and dominating. That tells me
two things - I want Pyroblast as a way to deal with the Planeswalkers
efficiently, and I want to be playing some of my own. Dack and Jace would help
with the occasional game where I get horribly flooded (after all, it is a 25
mana source deck), and provide a good supplement to the control plan. However,
Tasigur was incredibly powerful - he was an efficient threat that closed the
game very quickly, could draw cards, and enable comboing out. So red is in, and
black gets to stay. Mentor was amazing and I won maybe a quarter to a third of
my games just with it, no combo. Trinket Mage profitably blocked Mentor and
friends while tutoring for the combo. Just having a deck full of decent blockers
and reasonable attackers was very good against all of the fair blue decks,
especially the Mentor and Pyromancer ones. Engineered Plague is a 1-card kill
against two decks, and bought a ton of time against two Mentor decks. I loved
it. Otherwise the sideboard was fine but unexceptional.

    I'd certainly recommend checking out this archetype! I strongly believe that
it is the best combo-control deck in Vintage, and historically that strategic
archetype has been dominant. The addition of several creature decks to the Tier
1 vintage landscape continues to overturn old schools of deck building,
shockwaves that I believe are still being played out. In the meantime, exploit
the lack of power and toughness with Gray Ogres with upside!

    The Vintage Champs tournament was an amazing fait accompli for the Vintage
community, and I believe presages a new era of vitality in Vintage. The format
is diverse, fun, and very open, and accordingly more people showed up to Vintage
Champs than to Legacy Champs last year. A brew won the Champs! The tournament
venue is hands-down the best venue I've even been to - the block hotel is
kitty-corner to the venue, one of the best markets and places to eat in the
nation, Reading Market, is directly across from both the hotel and the venue,
and transportation from the airport is easy and cheap. If you haven't
experienced Eternal Weekend, mark your calendars for next year. It's that good.

    - Reading Market
    - Corned Beef
    - Jaco for running an amazing tournament 5+ jagerbombs in
    - Team Tusk and the Seattle eternal crew for being the best damn Magic
players to hang out with
    - Bob Huang (akatsuki) crushing with Delver (again).
    - Vintage
    - Legacy was incredibly long (11 rounds?!) and seems stale
    - Tournament payout was fairly stingy