Vintage Masters is coming, and we’re all eager for an opportunity to draft cards like Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall. Today, we’ll be discussing big-picture Limited strategy in an effort to sharpen our skills before we start drafting what looks to be one of the most high-powered formats of all time.
What Do We Take?
Library of Alexandria, Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Time Walk, and Sol Ring practically jump off the screen, demanding that we pick them. It’s important that we stand as a wall in the Draft—taking the absurdly powerful card will always give you a huge leg up on the competition in a Limited format like this one. Let’s see what cards are actual first pick a hundred percent of the time.
In order of power level:
- Sol Ring
- Ancestral Recall
- Black Lotus
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- Library of Alexandria
- Time Walk
- Future Sight
- Mana Crypt
- Recurring Nightmare
The next-most-powerful cards are two-for-ones that affect the board. Given the combat-centric nature of the format, Control Magic may be worthy to be on the list above. Blue is tremendously strong in Vintage Masters, and we should always be taking blue cards given the opportunity. Cards like Flametongue Kavu also fit the bill.
Getting cards like these isn’t something that’s going to happen in every Draft, so we’ll need to know how to draft some decks that don’t require power.
We want every card in our deck to have the ability to trade with a card of the opponent’s. It may not be worth it to play something narrow such as Triangle of War given the available power here. The card requires us to have a good board presence to do anything. This is a perfect example of a card that would probably be fine—or maybe even great in a lot of Draft formats—but that doesn’t cut the mustard in Vintage Masters. The nice thing about the set is that every card has a time and a place. The last-pick Triangle of War we might pick up can become reasonably strong if we’re able to pick up a few copies of Baleful Strix.
What Deck(s) Do We Want to Be Drafting?
Okay, so we’re not playing situational cards that might end up being dead in our hand, but we still don’t have any idea how to draft this set. Let’s talk about some of the archetypes available in Vintage Masters.
The most obvious and exciting archetype is G/U Madness. The deck uses discard outlets like Aquamoeba and Wild Mongrel to power out cards for their madness or flashback costs. This deck feels like a trap already. Every breathing human I’ve spoken to is excited to draft G/U Madness, and it will probably be an escape hatch for a player who takes a big blue spell but doesn’t know how to make a deck around it. I feel that I’ll really enjoy drafting G/U Madness a week after Vintage Masters’s launch, but right now, it seems I’ll be sharing my best cards with three or four other people in the Draft. A lot of the best cards in the G/U Madness deck aren’t even specific to the archetype. Every green mage will want Basking Rootwalla and Wild Mongrel, while every blue mage will want the powerhouse blue cards.
This is a deck I can get behind. Goblins offers up quite a lot of power in Vintage Masters in a color that doesn’t have nearly as many flashy first-picks as the others. We’ll be playing Limited, so we’ll have a fair fight. Goblins are usually pretty absurd when given the opportunity to play in a fair format. Turn-one Goblin Lackey draws are going to be obnoxious. I don’t expect this deck to be drafted a lot in the first couple days despite it looking to have the most power of any brutally apparent deck. We should hop on the Goblin train right away! It’s also nice that the other red drafters at the table will be taking Chain Lightning and Flametongue Kavu much higher than any of the Goblins, giving us a good opportunity to grab the leftovers.
We’ll need a lot of things to go right if we want to draft the Storm deck, but when the stars align, this seems pretty unbeatable for most decks. The most important cards for this deck are Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Tendrils of Agony, Necropotence, Demonic Tutor, and Yawgmoth's Bargain. We want to stick Necropotence or Yawgmoth's Bargain on the table and then unload our whole life total. (Or perhaps go down to 4 if we have a Bargain and a Vampiric Tutor in our deck.) Then, we unload a ton of rituals and fire off some lethal Tendrils of Agony at the opponent. Seems very fun and satisfying. I’m sure it’s possible, and probably more likely, that we’ll end up red, green, or blue to go with our black when drafting this archetype, but black is definitely the core Storm color in Vintage Masters.
Reanimator generally needs good things to reanimate, and Vintage Masters seems to be a set in which things might run dry in that department very quickly. These types of decks tend to be overdrafted and generally don’t do very well against good countermagic, unconditional spot removal, or other combo strategies. I’d stay away from Reanimator until the dust settles and it becomes an easy strategy to corner when there’s a flavor of the week.
It may seem odd, but White Weenie seems pretty reasonable here. We can curve out beautifully with efficient creatures and clear the way with Swords to Plowshares. The White Weenie deck will usually want to be splashing a second color. Generally speaking, we want the second color to be blue because blue is far and away the best color in the set. That being said, toss a few Flametongue Kavus into a White Weenie deck, and suddenly, we’ll feel unbeatable. There are a lot of traps for mono-white players. I wouldn’t recommend taking a bad Anthem effect. Again, we want each of our cards to be trading for one or more cards from the opponent. We need to be more efficient with our mana than our opponents are if we’re going to run them over as the White Weenie player.
The clear best deck in the format is the blue control deck. The sheer volume of ridiculous power in the set will allow a single Draft to easily support two people on the blue control deck, even if there are four players at the table forcing G/U Madness. The deck might have trouble with a lot of Goblin draws, but Goblins is only one deck, and a blue control deck with enough cheap spot removal will be able to weather the Goblin beatdown and make it to the stage of the game at which they take over due to sheer card quality and quantity.
There’s a lot of support for the green ramp deck, and the nonwhite strategies might have a lot of trouble dealing with cards like Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary when it’s ramping into 7-drops as early as the third turn. Moxen, broken mana producers, Fyndhorn Elves, Rofellos, and Yavimaya Elder should be looked for early on. Elephant Guide is quietly among the better cards in the set.
Is There Anything Specifically Noteworthy about the Set?
We can play Disenchant effects in our main decks—there’s enough in the way of powerful artifacts and enchantments to make this worthwhile.
It’s going to be nice to have one or two reasonably impactful cards that can be cast on the opponent’s turn. Countermagic will be main-decked, and there will probably be a good amount of it. We need to have a deck that’s equipped to pick fights with the control decks and end up with a big monster in play.
When in doubt, take the good blue card. Did we first- and second-pick two copies of Goblin Lackey? Well, we should still be taking Control Magic over Goblin General third pick. I’d much rather be a U/R Goblin deck with Control Magic and deny other players at the table from picking up the valuable two-for-one than put all my eggs in a single basket, despite how remarkably beautiful the basket in question is.
Come join me on Magic Online and be among the first to own digital copies of the most iconic cards of the game’s history. Vintage Masters looks to be among the most exciting Limited formats of all time. I’m very excited about the opportunity to line my online collection with a set of Power.
Vintage Masters is all the rage. Would you like to see another piece on Vintage Masters for next week? Perhaps it could be a piece focusing on a specific archetype. Or would you prefer I jump back into JBT? Hit the comments section, and let me know!