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CardShark Content - Matthew Smith (12/12/2002)

The question on the mind of TI players this year at Origins will definitely be, “What am I going to have to face at the championship?” This question will rely on a few factors: What type of people will this tournament (based on the prize structure) attract, how many people will actually care enough to show up, what decks will I face, and what deck should I play?

If you’re like me, you are already itching to get ready for Wizards newest tribute to the TI community and its players. The Vintage Championships held at Origins this year. This tournament promises to become the newest measuring stick for the Vintage scene. I’m hoping to eschew obfuscations in this series of articles which are dedicated to preparation for the Vintage Championship metagame.

What I’m trying to do is use the knowledge I’ve gained from the last couple years at GenCon and Origins to make an educated guess as to what the general metagame will look like, as well as try and determine which decks will have the best chance at defeating such a metagame.

If the tournament is indicative of last years Origins, one should see a very healthy field—with a slight shift towards control. Timing really is everything though, and at the time the Dragon combo and Illusionary Mask
Illusionary Mask
Illusionary MaskSet: Alpha
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Poly Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Amy Weber
Text:
X: You can summon a creature face down so opponent doesn't know what it is. The X cost can be any amount of mana, even 0; it serves to hide the true casting cost of the creature, which you still have to spend. As soon as a face-down creature receives damage, deals damage, or is tapped, you must turn it face up.
deck were the talk of the tournament. I faced a couple Mask decks and watched several Dragon decks compete. Mask showed better promise of the two. I did notice a few folks trying their hand at Gro, but I never saw a Gro deck in the top eight.

If the VC (Vintage Championship) is anything like the GenCon metagame one can expect to face a large number of aggressive decks. The field leaned mostly towards mono-black with a few Sligh and some very good anti-control oriented Zoo decks thrown into the mix. There was a tendency to tip towards aggressive decks and I’m not sure if this was due to economic availability or general preferences. GenCon 2002 taught us two lessons: that aggressive decks can compete on any given day, and Miracle-Gro is a deck you have to prepare to face.

One thing to keep in mind is that TI is a more geographic format than any other. At GenCon in Wisconsin, home of five-color, a very large TI population exists—mainly because the two formats can be coupled so easily. Cards that are hard to get in one region may be easier to get and vice versa. I had about twenty offers on my Chaos Orb
Chaos Orb
Chaos OrbSet: Oversize Cards
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Mono Artifact
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
1: Flip Chaos Orb onto the playing area from a height of at least one foot. Chaos Orb must turn completely over at least once or it is discarded with no effect. When Chaos Orb lands, any cards in play that it touches are destroyed, as is Chaos Orb.
at GenCon while most people were looking for Illusionary Mask
Illusionary Mask
Illusionary MaskSet: Alpha
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Poly Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Amy Weber
Text:
X: You can summon a creature face down so opponent doesn't know what it is. The X cost can be any amount of mana, even 0; it serves to hide the true casting cost of the creature, which you still have to spend. As soon as a face-down creature receives damage, deals damage, or is tapped, you must turn it face up.
at Origins. Don’t think for a minute that card availability doesn’t affect the metagame. In Neutral Ground at New York the field is generally very control oriented, as players of this caliber tend to favor control.

This information lends itself to the metagame question, “What type of people will be there?” If the prize is right, (Gencon draws pros every year and the prize is generally $250) then the folks who play the game for money will seep out of the cracks. Pros like Chapin, Bob Maher
Bob Maher
Bob MaherSet: Promotional Other
Rarity:
P
Text:
Magic Pro Tour Player Card
, and many others have been known to dabble in the art of TI when it pays well enough. Generally pro players don’t attend events like Origins or GenCon simply because there are no paying events. We’ll see if the prize structure behind the VC is enough to sway the field towards control.

When asking who’ll be there you must ask the underlying question, “Does anyone really care?” How many folks will rush out and prepare a TI deck knowing that there is finally one tournament a year that they can play competitively in? How many casual gamers will enroll in the VC after they find out they can play with all of their cards? What about the converts—the people who transform extended decks minutes before the tournament so that they can play? These are all questions that will affect your match-ups throughout the day. This random assortment of people will be playing a random assortment of decks, one that I could never possibly account for, but I can try and cover what I know you’ll probably see in my next question:

“What decks will I face?” Generally in any TI metagame you can count on a few stabile factors. Folks will always play control. This is most likely demonstrated by people who have been playing a deck like Keeper for a long time and have done quite well with it. Why fix it if it’s not broken? You’ll see plenty of pet decks, along with a plethora of unique cards, at the VC this year. Type One players revel in the fact that they have cards that no one else can obtain. Whether those are mis-cut moxes, a beta tester’s Counterspell
Counterspell
CounterspellSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Counters target spell as it is being cast.
, or a binder full of power nine, the TI player takes pride in his deck. These players will generally play the same deck year after year because they love looking at their deck. They’d rather win, but if they don’t they’ve lost with style.

Keeping this in mind, the field you should expect will be control (Keeper and its variants, Gro, mono-blue, Oath) Aggro (TnT, Sligh, Zoo, and mono-black). You’ll face mono-black because it’s cheap and it has the best chance to defeat control, TnT because everyone is talking about it, and universal Sligh because any kid can pick up the cards to make it and win on accident at any time.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include Combo in this list. This is because you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone playing combo—or playing it well. This is a problem. According to the metagame tree: Aggro beats Control, Control beats Combo, Combo beats Aggro. This isn’t exactly how it works in TI. Combo can easily beat control if played correctly and too often we’re seeing Control beat Aggro—mono-blue beats the tar out of Sligh. Combo includes decks like Academy, Dragon, Trix, Turbo-land, and Squirrel Craft.

My vote for most popular at the VC this year will go to TnT. This decks rising popularity is primarily due to a group of German players who piloted it to many, many wins. With the thought of TnT being a possibility in the metagame, most decks are devoting at least four sideboard slots towards it. I’m betting that TnT won’t be as prevalent as we think though. With Mishra
Mishra
MishraSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
3
Artist:
Anson Maddocks
Power:
+0
Toughness:
-3
Text:
Double all damage dealt by creatures you control.
’s Workshop gaining power-like status on e-bay (going for as much as $60) and the need to be fully powered, you won’t find many individuals who have deep enough wallets to play this deck.

The deck you’ll see the most this year should be the same as always, mono-black. The deck has plenty of disruption to defeat control, a sideboard geared towards aggressive decks, and only a real weakness to Sligh or Zoo. Expect to play at least one match against black.

The surprise deck of the tournament will be Miracle-Gro. I’m not sure if anyone is testing this match-up extensively, as I’m hearing a lot of people put this deck to shame, but this really is THE deck to beat this year. It’s shown that it is capable of handling control, dealing with the popular aggro decks (misdirecting Sligh and mono-black), and it can beat combo. The deck is particularly weak against TnT and Stompy but I don’t expect either deck to show up in droves. I expect some form of Gro to do quite well, whether that is the exact version or with a splash of white.

What deck will you win with? That is probably the toughest question of all. While I think a successful combo player may turn a few heads, I also am adamant by my proclamation as Gro being one of the best decks in the field. I think a couple of those people who are lucky enough to have the money to play TnT will do well, probably making top eight. It always seems that no matter how much Keeper is metagamed it always finds a way to make top eight, so expect at least one Keeper. Expect any mono-blue player who doesn’t have to face Gro or TnT to make top eight. Mono-black is always a contender and Sligh can just win.

But if I were a betting man I’d say the odds are in favor of Gro and I’d plan accordingly. If you plan on piloting Gro then you’d better have options against the mirror. You had better have an answer to your worst match-up in TnT and you might want to make sure you include one copy of Berzerk in your sideboard, mainly because it is SO TIGHT!

Remember, the odds may lean towards one deck type, but the odds don’t reflect play skill, pairings, or desire. These three factors weigh heavily in the formula for success. Not having to play against your worst match-up all day makes for a good argument that you have no bad match-ups.

One other thing I wanted to address before I end this article in the series was the issue of cheating at the Vintage Championships. I’m not talking about drawing extra cards or hiding cards in your lap, I’m talking about players making proxies of cards they don’t own.

In a format like standard every person has an equal opportunity to obtain cards needed for decks, mainly because the expansions are still in print. This changes with TI. I would hate to think that a person would be segregated from a tournament on the basis that s/he couldn’t compete because they didn’t have the cards, but I’m also convinced that these people who are trying to compete by cheating haven’t done any research and they’d probably lose anyway. I remember a few years ago at GenCon when pro player Aaron Brieder was competing in the $250 TI tournament and he had borrowed a deck from a friend that contained proxies for P9 cards in it. When the judges realized this he was immediately ejected from the tournament, but I’m not sure if any further actions were taken.

This poses the question again this year for the VC: How seriously will Wizards take the Vintage community? How much attention will be spent on the authenticity of the cards? And most importantly, what type of judges and how many will be present? In years past Vintage tournaments have been thrown together with whatever judges are available at the time. While Mike Guptil at PES does run a tight program, I’ve been astonished at some of the judge’s replies I’ve gotten when asking “TI” rules questions.

Just how serious is this “Vintage Championship”?

Well, I guess we’ll see. And until it happens I’ll be preparing myself, and you, for it.


Viva,


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