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So Many Insane Plays – A Guide to Aggro in Vintage (First Edition)

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Vintage author Stephen Menendian delves into the world of Aggro in Vintage, with a comprehensive look at what the various pieces of the color pie offer to the aspiring deckbuilder, and their applicability in the current Vintage landscape. In this 30 page article Stephen lays out the case for 12 different Vintage Aggro decks, including card analysis, explanations, and sideboarding advice.

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Vintage author Stephen Menendian delves into the world of Aggro in Vintage, with a comprehensive look at what the various pieces of the color pie offer to the aspiring deckbuilder, and their applicability in the current Vintage landscape. In this 30 page article Stephen lays out the case for 12 different Vintage Aggro decks, including card analysis, explanations, and sideboarding advice.

[Begin Free Excerpt From So Many Insane Plays – A Guide to Aggro in Vintage (First Edition)]

Grafdigger’s Cage is midwife to a new era of Vintage. It is not the sole cause of this new era, but it signals its birth and will forever be associated with it. Cage corrals many of the most potent strategic threats in the Vintage format, from Tinker to Dredge, and Yawgmoth’s Will to Oath of Druids. In so doing, it raises the status of finishers that aren’t restricted spells or mana cheats. It elevates the most efficient creature finishers in the game as serious win conditions, as opposed to secondary or even tertiary threats.

A common, and potent, board state of the new Vintage will be something like that: a board state with either Stoneforge Mystic or Tarmogoyf in play, and Cage keeping the opponent in line.

Tarmogoyf has long been a real Vintage threat, a staple in most Beats and Fish strategies, and a favorite of Blue decks who want a meaningful attacker for two mana, like the “Grow” archetype. What’s new is Stoneforge Mystic. Stoneforge Mystic, since the printing of Batterskull in New Phyrexia, has been a Tarmogoyf-level threat in Legacy for well over a year now. Its time has finally arrived in Vintage.

In this article, I want to take a comprehensive look at Aggro in Vintage. A few years ago, I began a series on StarCityGames, that was initially an attempt to develop competitive budget decks. Beginning with Suicide Black, and turning to R/G beats, my effort led me to believe that oft-marginalized Aggro decks could actually compete and be viable in Vintage. To that end, I created a G/W Beats deck and a G/B/W beats deck, the former of which Jon Donovan used to top 8 the Vintage Championship! In an environment where lethal dangers (Tinker, Yawgmoth’s Will, Time Vault, and Oath, among others) lurk around every corner, there is a real ceiling on the performance potential for those decks. It’s not to say that Beats decks in 2009 couldn’t compete or make top 8, but it required perfect play, and had lucky draw outs for dire situations.

While I wouldn’t say that Beats decks in the contemporary Vintage are favored strategies, the space for them to meaningfully compete with a much higher potential ceiling is now realizable. The recent printings are merely the capstone. Cards like Phyrexian Revoker and Leonin Relic-Warder all add to a growing list of tools and tactics. Until Cage, I wouldn’t be convinced that any number of disruptive bears would be good enough to compete with Big Blue decks, but now I’m convinced they can.

In this article, I want to comprehensively canvass all of the options available to the Vintage player for playing non-Blue Aggro decks. In other words: I want to explore the options for not playing Blue in Vintage, aside from Workshops.

Non-Vintage players may be surprised by some of my terminology or card choices. This article is about Vintage Aggro decks, yet Bears may not seem very aggressive. Vintage is such a fast format that playing creatures to merely attack and win the game hasn’t been a viable strategy in a decade. Even Workshop decks rarely use creatures that just attack. Juggernaut has been replaced by Lodestone Golem because Golem costs the same, and slows the opponent down at the same time. The only exception is Slash Panther, which is included because it effectively doubles as planeswalker (ie. Jace, the Mind Sculptor) removal.

In Vintage, with the exception of creatures that are cheated into play or the absolute most efficient beaters in the format (think Tarmogoyf level power), creatures are only playable if they generate card advantage, mana advantage or disrupt the opponent. Some creatures do both at the same time, like Snapcaster Mage. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, it is best to keep this rule in mind. I will survey those exceptions throughout this article, but the rule is broadly applicable, and will help keep you on the right track.

My goal in this article is to build for you what I believe to be the absolute strongest configurations of each possible Beats permutation. I will also attempt to discern which variants are strongest, and which variants may shine in particular kinds of metagames.

This article will also try to explain how to play these decks, providing principles of play, such as what to name with Revoker, how to sequence your spells, and set up the best defense and offense. This article is not meant to be a weekly article, but something more enduring. Part II will canvass the range of available tools and tactics available to the Beatdown player. Part III will present 12 different Beatdown options, based on each possible (non-Blue) color permutation. Part IV will explain how to play these decks. Part V will conclude with parting advice.

I intend to update decklists if I discover clear errors or obvious improvements. I also hope to revise this article at some future date, much as I have done with my Gush book, when future technology becomes available.

[End Free Excerpt]