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Vintage Artist Constructed

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When was the last time you sat down and actually built a deck from scratch? Maybe it was a decade ago? Maybe it was a week ago for a younger sibling, sure; but when did you make a deck for yourself, to actually play for yourself, that you would call your deck?

How old were you? Did you lands even match? Did you even use sleeves?

The article today I’m going to write about is Vintage Artist Constructed, what it is, how it works and some pro tips in actually building it. Why now? It’s because a new set is about to drop and, once the basic lands are announced, you can start improving or brewing decks immediately!

What is the format?

The format is called Vintage Artist Constructed. It is the Vintage format of Magic with a single caveat that all cards must be by one artist.

How can I build a deck?

I recommend people working backward and enjoying the discovery phase. Yes, there are a few decks that users post on the Facebook group of the same name. Sure, you can even find lists where people narrowed basic lands. But I urge you to explore. Find the best experience you ever had in Limited, and not just booster draft but Cube draft as well, and work from the seminal card backward. For example, Damnation has two printings, one by Kev Walker and one by Ron Spencer. Have they both made card art for a swamp? Yes, and deck brewing begins.

Who invented this?

Josh Krause, owner of OriginalMagicArt.com, technically. I wrote an article on artist sealed last year, making the casual decks of “all by one artist” easier to create and be structured. I started by taking an entire artist’s card pool, and players could build a deck from the pool. The issue was in making eight decks for a gauntlet and basic lands. Josh suggested it be constructed, and, with Vintage being conveniently everything in the game, the format was born.

Who plays this?

People who attend events that Josh Krause or myself are located. In Minneapolis, we play it from time to time in between Cube drafts at people’s homes. Most decks aren’t terribly expensive to build. The most expensive decks are not the consistently best decks.

Where can I play this?

There is always a tournament at GenCon sponsored by Original Magic Art, one also just happened at Grand Prix Portland, and the next will be at the MTGPupathon, the September Minneapolis Charity event sponsored by The Meadery to benefit Secondhand Hounds. More events will be coming soon. If you’re interested in hosting a tournament at your LGS, please contact me and I’ll see what I can arrange for you in terms of an original sketch for prize support!

Why should I play this?

You get to actually brew a deck again. For many of the players, building a deck from scratch is a trip of unadulterated nostalgia. From Standard to modern onto the Eternal formats, a metagame is established, with the best decks showing results and regressing to a mean “best” version. This format is not large enough for that yet. It’s a deck brewer’s haven.

Winning original Magic art links the prize to the format and with a winner leaving with a unique prize, it definitely forces people to play out the final match every time. Smaller tournaments only have sketch to win for first. Lower valued original paintings are planned for future tournaments of scale.

What is the metagame?

Like most formats, Red deck wins and other Aggro decks were the first iterations to be made and after a few tournaments, more are emerging. Token decks have finally emerged as playable with Eric Deschamps planeswalkers and Zoltan Boros. Due to the nature of needed a few counterspells, control decks are quite rare in the format thus far. That is not to say they don’t exist, they just haven’t been found yet.

Ok cool, but how can I make a deck quickly?

I absolutely recommend building a deck by using the Cool Stuff Inc. Deck-builder. You’ll see condition and choices from ses in an easy to utilize function. It makes deck construction so much easier, as you can click the correct artist’s depiction and maybe get a slight discount for played cards too. The Dreadbore is the only option but the Goblin Sharpshooter is what I mean below. Some players have ordered the wrong cards for previous tournaments!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use artist proofs?

We have not decided yet if they are permissible, as they are not in Vintage. Though no tournament organizer has been asked the question either. As promotional cards are all allowed, I would imagine they would be permitted to keep costs affordable. They also allow artists to make decks with ease.

Do tokens need to match the artist too?

Nah, that’d be too absurd to need to match them to the right artists. Use what you will.

How good are auras and equipment?

Auras are kept in check with strong removal, which is everywhere in the format. Artifacts are a bit more troublesome as you generally need Green or White for naturalize or disenchant cards. Having them in a sideboard are vital due to Christopher Moeller’s Jitte or Greg Staples’s Parallax Wave.

What about “Un-” sets?

You’re curious about the “artist matters” mechanic from Unhinged? It is banned, just like in Vintage. No, spike, that would not be fun.

How do I find the right basic lands?

Welcome to the second hardest thing about the format. Finding twenty-three lands by one artist, especially obscure lands from the 1990s are rather difficult. That said, asking friends or Twitter for help has tended to work best. Everyone has a land box and people are more than willing to find the Maddocks land from Ice Age. As for Guru/APAC land etc., yes, that is a huge issue for accessibility of some artists. How much you want to spend on a new format is frankly, up to you.

What can I not forget about?

Protection from x creatures are much more powerful than you remember from the 1990s. If you have a choice on them from your artist selection, they are at least a 3-4 slot selection.

Two card combos like Isochron Scepter and Silence or any unblockable creature with an equipment are backbreaking. Shadow makes your creatures unblockable, but also unable to block. Promotional cards are the backbone of the format. You have to use MagicCards.info or Pucatrade.com to search for artists as Gatherer will struggle to show you all the iterations.

Protips

If you played in Limited formats where a card felt overpowered, those are the card that tend to shine best in Vintage Artist Constructed. Main deck artifact hate is common because so many equipments can warp an entire game with even a 2/2 dork.

Pyroclasm

Since so many early creatures of Magic were 2/1 instead of Green’s bears at 2/2, keep in mind that dealing one damage to all creatures will kill two creatures nearly always.

New decks

I do post new deck ideas on my Twitter page. If you search past my dachshund pictures, you’ll see tweets like this and the people who play the format, using #mtgVAC discussing the options. And yes, Crackdown in a Mono-White deck is very gross.

Rogue Decks

Playing a rogue deck that you have tuned is by far the best course of action for upcoming tournaments. Staples/Reynolds/Deschamps/Boros are all known with prepped sideboards for them. Artists like Anson Maddocks, Darrel Riche and countless others that don’t have dozens of cards to draw from. You technically only need to find an artist with ten cards, with one of them being a basic land. Artists with a few dozen works are being woefully overlooked.

SHUT UP AND SHOW ME DECKS

Ask and you shall receive. I have three variations of my deck, Wayne Reynolds, and a few others I’ve been brewing. Enjoy!

Mike’s Deck and Variations

I play Wayne Reynolds because I own some of Wayne’s art. I like it. His style is unmistakable with hard edges on swords, oversized bases and just a silly amount of detail. His variation of just B/R decks is surprisingly deep.

Dreadbore by Wayne Reynolds

This is the list I used at the GPMINN Vintage Artist Constructed tournament.

The removal suite is what makes Wayne’s deck tick. Tuning the turn three and four is the challenge. He has an incredible top end, but that also fights with your hyper aggro start. Bane of Hanweir is one of the hardest creatures to deal with in the format, though getting a 3-drop that stays on the ground would move Wayne’s deck from good to great. Don’t fall into the trap that is Ashling, she is quite terrible in the deck. Do use a Terminate early but hold your Dreadbore for your final turn as planeswalkers are rampant.

As he does receive Red creatures fairly often, the deck will only improve with time, like Goblin Freerunner. Vulshok humans are also in Wayne’s wheelhouse in case a return to Mirrodin occurs again.


I only managed a 2-2 record, losing both times to token producing decks. Notice the cards that I should have played below that would have been able to either annihilate the tokens or force them to hesitate to attack, giving my Aggro deck the opening it needs.

https://twitter.com/VorthosMike/status/738112596398641152

And here is what I’m working on for next iteration of the deck. Skred-Freaks are so fast and getting them to 50% of their life will force not only mistakes, but allow for fewer planeswalkers to be cast or dragons to deal with. By adding first strike it can kill the vital 3/3 creature the deck struggles with.


The deck does two things differently. It speeds up the deck, as Hanweir Watchkeep does legitimately nothing upon the board and often slows the deck down to a crawl. It also packs Giant Growth shifted via Planar Chaos that allows Vaultbreaker to become a dashed 4-drop hitting for seven. The Rakdos Shred-Freak still feels like it does nothing in the deck other than two damage to their face and then trade with a Grizzly Bears, but I’m still testing it.

The other form of this deck is the Goblins version which enables Mad Auntie, a non-legendary creature to its maximum value. Pumping Marsh Flitter’s Goblins means that Faerie 4-drop is now adding 5 power to the board with upside. I tried the few rats that Wayne had and found the goblin to be best if you want creature type synergy.

Mad Auntie by Wayne Reynolds

Hitting Soulblast is the finisher, hopefully getting a point or three damage from Goblin Sharpshooter or Goblin Arsonist in the process. Counterspells exist but you can’t argue that this deck isn’t budget friendly at around $55 according to the Deck-builder. The sideboard is where the cost can get you.


As a sidenote, Goblin Freerunner is still available for purchase from Wayne directly. Go to his website and ask!

Goblin Freerunner by Wayne Reynolds

“8 x 9.5“ / 20cm x 24cm. Acrylic on board.

Steve Prescott RG tokens

I’ve been play-testing this deck quite a bit and I’m learned a few things.

Parallel Lives by Steve Prescott

As a side note, do you see the eyes in the branches in the art above and the mouth around the paw? Fun, huh?


Mono Red Cavotta

This deck, while mega slow, just needs to get to turn four. At that point, if Etched Champion is in play, your opponent will burn every spell they have to prevent you casting an artifact on turn five. It’s oddly strong with “protection from” in the sideboard, tech against tokens and artifacts. It’s also cheap!

Goblin Piledriver by Matt Cavotta


Tony Szczudlo B/R

Building these decks will have plenty of synergy in creature types. Obviously elementals should be by one artist during a set for ease and visual continuity. Think of the humans in the original Innistrad, Ryan Pancoast and Steven Belledin really did work those didn’t they? As for Tony here, he did zombies. The interactions between Pardic Miner and Grave Pact is a fun combo for the format and backbreaking on turn four on the play. I cut Stone Rain and I’m still not sure if that was correct but I love that I struggle with that choice.

Grave Pact by Tony Szczudlo


Rebecca Guay W/R

Seeing Serra Angel and Crackdown make this deck playable. What puts it over the top is the Squee's Embrace vs. removal heavy decks like Wayne Reynolds. I also love the block with dude, then Path to Exile your own blocker to ramp up to 5 mana for Serra Angel.

Serra Angel by Rebecca Guay


Michael Komarck Bant

This deck struggles with a lack of removal but in its place are a full boat of Farseek to smooth that mana for a on curve turn four exalted enabler. Yes, you need a Plains in your opening hand or it will lose. It’s surprisingly quick if you get the veterans out. The Horizon Canopy are fun but they surely don’t feel needed in the deck. Cutting those would make this deck a heckuva lot cheaper.

Odric, Master Tactician


By far the hardest part is not picking an artist, it’s tightening a deck with any net-decking support. It reminds you how unbelievably difficult it is and also how enjoyable tuning a deck can be.

On September 11, 2016, there will be a tournament I am hosting at the Meadery’s MTGPupathon weekend, that Sunday. The winner will receive an original Magic painting for first. Second place will win a sketch. I’ll see you in downtown Minneapolis then!

—Mike


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