Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Update: Thirst for Knowledge and Guardian Beast

So quite a bit has been happening in Old School/Vintage MTG recently. The first thing I would like to point out is Mg's #MtgForLife campaign on Indiegogo. If you are reading this blog, it's extremely likely that you have already seen this, but if not, read about on the Old School MTG blog. Considering the obscene amounts of money we all pour into this game, it's great to see Mg bringing the community together to reroute some of that money to give back those who can use it most. There are 24 days left of the campaign and it would be amazing to hit the $10,000 goal. I made a small donation on the first day and will be making another very soon. I feel that this is a wonderful cause, and urge you to think about contributing something.

In Vintage, Dig Through Time and Chalice of the Void were restricted, while Thirst For Knowledge was unrestricted. I don't want to dive too deeply into Wizards's explanation for these, nor am I going to post a full analysis on it at this time (but here is a brief one from EC). Suffice it to say, this has really shaken up Vintage and I am STOKED.

When I first got into competitive Vintage (around 2004-2005), Control Slaver was the first deck that I picked up. I definitely wasn't any good at it, and had more success when I switched solely to 5C Uba Stax (and at one point in time I owned this full linked list in Japanese foil/Alpha – achievement unlocked), but Slaver will always be that nostalgic "first deck" for me. Nowadays, I don't feel that Mindslaver is strong enough a card, but I do think it's time to revisit Thirst with Goblin Welder.

Back in 2009, John Beste and I used to run a U/R/B Painter list we referred to as "The Gabbersaurus." It definitely was one of the most fun decks that I have ever piloted, and overall, it did well in its time. Fast forward to now, I think the best Thirst list is going to be a Painter's Servant-based deck. Specifically, I feel this way because with the restriction of Chalice, Null Rods are going to be rampant. A Painter deck is one of the few decks that can deal with a resolved Null Rod without splashing any anti-artifact hate in the main deck.

The world's best Vindicate, despite being an awful alter
I will also point out that playing a TFK-based deck that has some tinkerbot along with the Time Vault/Voltaic Key combo is hit very hard by Phyrexian Revoker as well as Pithing Needles, which are often found in many sideboards. By playing Painter/Grindstone, Key/Vault, Goblin Welder, and Dack Fayden, an opposing deck running Revokers and/or Needles has a tough time making the right call. Even if they do make the right call (likely informed by the board state), with all of the cards just mentioned, you have plethora of great options (going all the way to plays like stealing an opponent's Pithing Needle with Dack, and Welding it out in a situation where Needle is naming half of your combo and your opponent either has no artifacts in the yard, or you don't want to give him any of his artifacts in his yard).

Below is a list I ran a couple of weeks ago in a eight-man Vintage event. I ended up 4-1, only losing to Jaco (he went undefeated) after mulling to a barely playable five-card hand in G1 that was answered entirely by Jaco's turn 1 Dack Fayden with Pyroblast backup that guaranteed me multiple turns without mana. G2 was a blowout as well (the deck had multiple Ancient Grudges, Pyroblasts, and Null Rods).

The cards next to FOW are altered Drains
This game started with t1 TFK into Dack

The list needs some work, but I really liked it. Despite all the bad PR you hear about BSC, it still kills in one turn (just don't be an idiot, and consider your outs to an opposing Dack before Tinkering). And as far as the lack of black for Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Yawgmoth's Will, and great sideboard cards, I'd rather not lose to Wasteland. The sideboard isn't pictured, but it had an amount of Steel Sabotage, Ingot Chewer, and Grafdigger's Cage among other things.

I'll keep playing with TFK and posting more decks as I build them. Feel free to tear this apart in the comments if you dare!

Old School
I recently participated in Card and Board's Old School event. We had 12 players and I played a deck very similar to Justin Beckert's U/R/B Dreams Combo. I had played with the deck quite a bit before hand and found it to be INCREDIBLY BUSTED. Unfortunately, I ended up playing against three B/W aggro decks, all running Underworld Dreams. For whatever reason, any game where I had an early Dreams, my opponent either had one as well, or had a Disenchant. There were also multiple games that I played where I couldn't find an Underworld Dreams until hitting the bottom third of my deck.

The day was an exercise in extreme variance. Although I made top eight (not so impressive when the whole tournament was 12 players), in retrospect I'd rather have just sat the tournament out, and hung out/watched than play the type of games that I did. But that is just how it's sometimes going to be. Otherwise, it was great chatting with everyone at the tournament and I can't wait for the next one.

The deck that I am most excited about is a Guardian Beast combo deck that is in many ways, similar to Mg's "Project M," but the core strategy is quite different. Project M utilizes the combos between Guardian Beast and Nevinyrral's Disk as well as Chaos Orb (note that Chaos Orb is not sacrificed to activate), while at the same time using Beast to protect non-creature artifacts and finishing with an aggro strategy. This build of Project M uses Mishra's Factories, Sol'kanar, Triskelion, Vesuvan Doppelganger, Mahamoti Djinns, and Control Magic to win (as well as additional options in the sideboard).

Here is what I have been playing:

"Beast Combo"
Note the absence of any creatures aside from the Guardian Beasts. The idea behind this deck is that you use Beast/Disk to control the board and avoid being killed, and eventually finish with an infinite Braingeyser or Rocket Launcher courtesy of Power Artifact/Basalt Monolith.  For blocking, or the last resort of "going on the offensive" (if something goes wrong with the combo), you have two Factories, two Jade Statues, and two Copy Artifacts.

These "creatures" are very intentional choices. Notice how Guardian Beast only makes non-creature artifacts indestructible? This means that with an amount of Factory/Statue in play, you can activate a Disk (with Beast in play) during your first main phase, nuke the whole board minus your artifacts, then activate these to swing in with. Jade Statue is particularly hilarious, in that it is only a creature during the combat step. It also happens to be a 3/6, which is key because it is largely in the deck as a blocker to buy time while waiting to assemble one of the two infinite combos, or a Chaos Orb/Beast lock.

I found this deck to be absolutely brutal. Aside from Energy Flux, it is very hard to beat this deck. Unlike Project M, this deck plays four Counterspells for dealing with anything that tries to disrupt your Guardian Beast, or to protect your combo while going off. Also notice how Power Artifact is often a live card, even without Basalt Monolith. It can be played on Jayemdae Tome, Disrupting Scepter, Rocket Launcher, Jade Statue, or even Chaos Orb for value.

Power Artifact "for val"
Hard to imagine a better opening hand
After drawing a second Counterspell, my opponent scooped
Beast redundancy
Between all of the draw, Demonic Tutor, Transmute Artifact, and Recall, there are many ways to assemble all of the different combos. And even when you can't easily assemble an infinite combo, this deck can play a control role until you do, or win with Beast/Statue/Fatory aggro. I also know that you can't run less than four Beast in this deck. In order to control the board, they will be nuked by Disk, so it is key to draw another (or have one in hand) as quickly as possible to keep the game in your favor.

The sideboard probably needs a couple Boomerangs to deal with Energy Flux, because outside of a previously resolved (at least two turns prior) Chaos Orb or Disk, it's almost impossible to beat Energy Flux. This would be the only reason I would consider running red, and it would just be for REB out of the board. I feel this would disrupt the mana base too much (the reason for only running two Factories), so I am not currently running them. I may try it out in the future.


  1. Awesome tech. I was dabbling with power artifact in my first versions of project M, and I've been thinking about trying to make the combo work again. This was very inspirational :)

    Thanks for the #mtgforlife shout out!

  2. Awesome tech. I was dabbling with power artifact in my first versions of project M, and I've been thinking about trying to make the combo work again. This was very inspirational :)

    Thanks for the #mtgforlife shout out!

    1. Thanks! Glad you approve. I really like Power Artifact on its own in a deck with Jayemdae Tome and Disrupting Scepter, so it's a major bonus that it happens to create the combo for infinite mana. I love that combo.

      Happy to spread the word on #mtgforlife. Hoping it meets the goal!

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