The Pitch Dredge deck that I have been writing about and advocating for the past couple of years is performing well, and may well be considered the premier Vintage Dredge deck. This variant, which emphasizes counterspells, has out-placed the older variant featuring permanent destruction (or counter-hate_ in 5 out of the last 5 major events for which placement data is available. While Bazaar of Moxen’s October 2016 published results did not include any Dredge decks, the Vintage Championship at Eternal Weekend as well as the past four Power 9 Challenges on Magic Online all featured a finish by Pitch Dredge ahead of any other Dredge variant finish. I wish my congratulations to the various pilots – even with the best deck it takes skill and luck to perform well at a large event. Here’s a sample decklist from a recent event:
I placed second in the August 2016 Power 9 Challenge with a Vengeful Pharaoh variant of my Pitch Dredge deck. I was streaming the event live, and the video archive can be found in the embedded YouTube playlist at the bottom. But first, a few points of analysis.
On July 20 2015, Wizards of the Coast announced a radical slate of changes to Magic Online, especially for non-Pro Tour formats. Vintage players quickly found that prizes of substantial monetary value were replaced with Play Points, and Daily Events would become 3 rounds of Swiss. In the three weeks between the announcement and the change taking effect, Wizards published six Daily Event results. The same rate held in the three-week period after implementation, and in the three weeks preceding the October 20 Magic Online announcements, by which point the Daily Events had been altered to a new 4-round structure. In contrast, the three weeks prior to the Play Points announcement had 16 published results. That period was unusually busy for Vintage online, but it demonstrates that Play Points and 3-round Dailies failed to build on any existing momentum. The Wizards announcement of the Power 9 Challenge was a thrilling about-face. Instead of smaller and less-rewarding tournaments, Wizards would offer real Vintage prizes and coordinate less-frequent but larger and more meaningful tournaments. Even so, the announcement expressed some doubts that the 33-player minimum would be met, and stressed that a 12-player minimum Daily Event would be available at around the same time.
2015 Vintage Champs has come and gone, leaving behind a new conception of the metagame, and exciting technology with which to address it. Big congratulations should be given to Brian Kelly with his Oath of Bomberman victory, but let’s see what else Vintage enthusiasts were able to cook up.
Dredge is a historical powerhouse in Vintage. Graveyard mages fueled by the unholy alliance of Ichorid, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Golgari Grave-Troll have consistently put up results. The deck has fought Mishra’s Workshop decks for the title of ‘Premiere Colorless Deck’ and occasionally won – including a Vintage Championship. There have been many iterations of the deck, with the non-Dredge maindeck components being the key marker that set one apart from another. In some cases this has consisted of free disruption like Chalice of the Void and Unmask. In others acceleration like Breakthrough and Brainstorm is the norm. In the current environment, it most often consists of anti-hate cards like Nature’s Claim, Ingot Chewer, and Chain of Vapor. Of course, the graveyard portion of the deck is highly modular and virtually anything can be run in the remaining space, provided the mana costs and mana-production align.
Magic the Gathering is a game of resource management. While the quirks of particular cards will drive certain formats, the general principles of resource management will dictate how one should best address particular strategies. Using resource management as a lens through which to view Magic decks, archetypes, and even entire formats will allow players to make unprecedented connections and reach new levels of understanding.