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Aburame Shino

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Aburame Shino's Corner

Vintage: The Million Dollar Format
April 7, 2006

    There are a lot of people who play Magic who tend to stray away from the format known as Type 1. There are a multitude of reasons why people don't play this format. I've heard pretty much every explanation for why people play the format and why people don't. For this article, I'm going to give you a quick run through of everything I've heard and my thoughts on the argument.

1. The winner is whoever goes first.

I'm sure you've heard a lot of stories about what can be done during the typical Type 1 match. There are stories about the format being incredibly cutthroat, with games ending faster than the opponent can blink, and that matches revert to whoever gets to go first is the person who wins. If you've experienced this format firsthand, you will know that these rumors are completely untrue.

While there are a few decks that can win on the first turn, most of the time they don't. Some of the top decks in the format are actually not super fast. The deck that most argue to be the best is one of the slowest of all of them, Stax. Stax is essentially a lockdown deck, using cards such as Trinisphere, Smokestack, and Sphere of Resistance to keep cards off the opponent's field, while using cards like Gorilla Shaman to destroy opposing Moxen and Goblin Welder to swap around artifacts to ensure your control of the field.

Another slower deck in the format is Control Slaver, which is similar to Stax in that it uses Goblin Welder, but different in it's main strategy. The purpose of Control Slaver is to get a Goblin Welder into play and continuously return a Mindslaver from your graveyard to play to take control of your opponent's turns. There are different builds of the deck, which are more aggressive with stuff like Triskelion and Sundering Titan, although I'm sure there are a few other builds that exist.

Now, when I say this, don't think that there aren't incredibly fast decks out there. Intuition-Tendrils, Worldgorger Dragon Combo, and Ichorid have the ability to defeat the opponent faster than holy hell, the first two being able to pull off a first turn win under the right circumstances, and Ichorid being able to win 3rd turn if you get a good Dredge going with Bazaar. But as I stated before, while these decks can be fast, unless you know how to use the decks properly, they can easily be shut down if the opponent know what he's doing or if you make one slip-up such as miscounting your mana when trying to combo out in Intuition-Tendrils.

2. The format requires you to spend thousands of dollars to make winning decks.

Another rumor that is mostly untrue. While there are cards that will cost you a pretty penny to get, there are ways of not needing to buy them if you can't afford them. In the current Vintage tournament scene, all tournaments sans the World Champs held by Wizards of the Coast will allow you to run ten proxies. For those who are unaware of what a proxy is, it's when you take a basic land, cross out the name, and write all stats of the proxied card on the land. So if you wanted to proxy a Bazaar of Baghdad, you would cross out the name, write Bazaar of Baghdad in it's place, then write the oracle wording on it, which in this case would be "Tap: Draw 2 cards, then discard 3 cards." By allowing people to run proxies for these tournaments, it stops them from having to spend tons of money on cards that they cannot afford, plus allows players who do have expensive cards such as Beta Power from damaging their high-valued cards.

Other ways of keeping from spending your life savings on the card is the use of an inexpensive deck. One of the most popular cheap decks to make that is still competitive is U/W Fish, a deck that controls the field while using Ęther Vial to drop Voidmage Prodigys and Meddling Mages with a Standstill in play. The deck only runs five pieces of power (Pearl, Sapphire, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Lotus), so that automatically leaves you five spots open to proxy other cards, such as Force of Will or dual-lands. What also makes Fish such a great deck for the budget player is that you can make multiple different versions of Fish, and if you know what you're doing, can make it work.

While there are people who feel it necessary to Power out their deck such as some of the more hardcore Vintage players, it is not necessary for you because of the proxy rules and the inexpensive decks that you can make. However, if you do have the money to make your deck better and are seriously considering playing in Type 1 tournaments, don't be afraid to do so, because having a set of Force of Will in your collection doesn't hurt.

3. The format is incredibly cutthroat.

This is actually one of the few rumors that I actually agree with as being true. Many of the people who play Competitive Type 1 take it very seriously, and will spend tons of money to perfect their decks, and will travel halfway across the country to play in tournaments such as The Mana Drain Open and Starcitygame's Power 9 tournaments. These are people who could play their decks backwards and forwards without making very many mistakes. They will never forget to weld out one of their artifacts that is being Rack and Ruined to fizzle the entire spell, and they will be able to pull off a 20-point Tendrils without much trouble. Those who try to play off-the-wall decks usually get served unless they know what they're doing (such as the introduction of Ichorid to Type 1 at the latest SCG Power tourneys).

If you cringe every time you see a Goblin Welder or when your opponent Tinkers a Darksteel Colossus into play, this is obviously not going to be the format for you. To be amazing at this format you have to know exactly how every deck ticks, and how you can beat it with the cards that are in your main board and sideboard. If you're field is very heavy on Fish and you have troubles beating Meddling Mage, run a couple Massacre in the sideboard. If the Angels in Oath of Druids (Akroma and Razia) are giving you trouble, run Swords to Plowshares, Karakas, or Extract to keep the angels from getting onto the field.

Some of the things that happen in Vintage can be completely unpredictable. I know I've had moments where I could win in one foul swoop with my Tendrils deck without realizing it until I got started, but pulled it off because I knew what I was doing once I did get started. To beat the format, you have to be more amazing than you've ever been before. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a little bit of luck on your side, such as top decking a Force of Will the turn before your opponent was going to win. But don't rely on luck to win you games.

I’ll admit that I’m not a master of this format, as I don’t play nearly as much as I did a while back. In fact, the most I do nowadays when it comes to this format is play in the occasional Mox tournament that happens at my local store. However, what I stated about the above rumors that I have heard in the past is completely what I believe. I’m sure I could go more into detail about the facts/fictions of this format, but for now, I’ll leave with what I have given to you.

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