Serious Vintage Episode 33: Forest Bear Goes to Eternal Weekend 2018

For episode 33, Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple) talk with Josh McCurley (@infant_no_1) about Eternal Weekend and the food of Pittsburgh.

Play

Here’s the timestamped table of contents for your listening ease and enjoyment:
00:24 – Slinging Cards with Josh McCurley
03:26 – “Josh, What’s the Vintage Metagame?”
42:21 – Eating Out Pittsburgh
53:03 – Outro
Full runtime – 54:16

Enter the Forest Bear

Josh McCurley visits from Texas, where he’s a Magic judge and Eternal formats aficionado. Online he streams Vintage on MTGO regularly and has even dabbled in Arena recently, all with a penchant for the Portal card Forest Bear. Despite focusing mainly on Mishra’s Workshop-based strategies himself, Josh keeps a close eye on other archetypes and is willing to experiment with radical lists he concocts or that his viewers send him. Plus, he has to recognize how other strategies are doing if he wants to beat them, right? So we brought him in as an expert.

As further evidence of his expertise, Josh and Nat once played a casual Vintage game of Lantern Control versus Jester’s Scepter Uba Mask and—thanks to Ensnaring Bridge, Uba Mask, and some other dumb artifacts—finished as an actual, no-winner draw. Reminded of this, Josh said, “We are so good at Vintage.”

Predictions on Eternal Weekend

Note: Since our knowledge of Eternal Weekend was admittedly muddled, you should visit Card Titan for all the details.

Vintage right now is a battle between five top decks: Ravager Workshops, Paradoxical Outcome Storm, Jeskai Control (or some flavor of blue-based control), Dredge, and Oath. None of the decks can beat all of the others, so there’s a tug-of-war at the metagame level as players try to pick which deck they feel will be best equipped to beat most of their opponents and then tune to make their poor matchups slightly better.

For example, if you think there’s going to be a large number of Workshop decks, you would play PO Storm to beat them and then work to combat Jeskai’s draw engine and countermagic so you don’t lose too many points there. But then if you think there’s going to be a lot of PO Storm, you play Jeskai and try to adjust to beat Workshops in the sideboard.

And then Oath or Dredge show up, being all weird, and just decimate an unprepared field. Good luck!

Defending Champion: Workshop Aggro
Andy Markiton won last year’s North America Vintage Champs with Ravager MUD, and the strategy hasn’t changed drastically since then. The prison builds of years past have been replaced by a kind of aggressive tempo deck. Instead of slowing an opponent down with lots of Sphere of Resistance effects, Workshop players speed themselves up with Foundry Inspector and have a kind-of combo win with Arcbound Ravager and Walking Ballista. It’s similar to other formats’ Affinity lists; they may not hinder an opponent’s plan at all, except for putting them on an exceptionally fast clock. Expect to face it multiple times and be prepared to do better than one-for-one artifact and creature removal if you want to win.

The Newcomer: Paradoxical Outcome
When Paradoxical Outcome debuted in Kaladesh, every Vintage player looked at it and said, “Oh, yeah, that card’s absurd.” It finally hit its stride as a combo engine and has a few different looks as players decide which colors they like and which win conditions they want to use—usually some mix of Tendrils of Agony, Monastery Mentor, Time Vault, and Blightsteel Colossus. These lists can range from very aggressive storm-focused strategies (almost like Pitch Long or TPS) to those that are happy to build more slowly to the win (similar to old Gifts Ungiven lists in pace). Outcome preys on Workshop decks because it has a lot of free mana and a generally faster clock, but it can struggle against counterspells if it can’t resolve its bombs.

The Comeback Kid: Survival
Survival of the Fittest has been around for a long time and is good enough to be banned in Legacy. But it made a startling resurgence in Vintage when it took first at Asia Vintage Champs. This is thanks to the printing of Hollow One, which gives it a beefy aggro plan to go along with its toolbox of searchable answers to other strategies. It’s a novel look for a Vintage deck—lots of green, not a lot of blue or artifacts—and players may lose percentages just because they won’t know how to play against it. Of course, players who pick up the deck might suffer from unfamiliarity as well. Answering creatures is good, but Survival relies on its namesake enchantment and Bazaar of Baghdad to find and make threats, so stopping activated abilities is also strong.

The Contender: Jeskai Control
We lumped most of the blue-based control decks together even though they encompass a wide variety of colors and flavors. Most players agree that restricted blue cards, Preordains, and Force of Wills make a powerful broth and are then happy to add their favorite flavor of win condition, everything from Monastery Mentor, to Tinker, to Jace, the Mind Sculptor. These decks like to draw and filter cards and tend to win the game, really, by having better natural access to efficient answers and threats. That is: it’s difficult to focus on one particular card to stop because all the cards do the same thing. Workshop decks tend to do well against Jeskai Control because artifacts like Sphere of Resistance and Phyrexian Revoker can hinder the blue deck’s ability to effectively keep its hand full.

The Fading Star: Oath of Druids
Is Oath a fading star? It hasn’t been popular or done particularly well recently, but it seems like it could be a dark horse in the current metagame. Oath can do well against creature-based strategies like Mishra’s Workshop and Survival decks, especially if it can remove or ignore their answers, typically Grafdigger’s Cage or Containment Priest. And Oath can easily play Preordain and restricted blue cards, so it can potentially keep up with Jeskai Control lists as it looks to resolve its one important spell. Griselbrand is a powerful demon companion, and there are any number of other useful, powerful creatures would make potential inclusions, but no one seems to have devised a list that wins consistently. Between commonly played hate (since Grafdigger’s Cage pulls double duty against Oath and Dredge) and a heavy reliance on one idea, Oath struggles.

The Underground: Dredge
When Dredge was totally a graveyard-based deck, it seemed to gain strength when opponents had become complacent, forgotten about it, and shaved graveyard hate from their sideboards. Now, again because of Hollow One, it has a solid backup plan that might not need to touch the graveyard at all. It’s consistent metagame terror, particularly in the hands of a knowledgeable pilot, and it will win a lot of games against prepared and unprepared opponents alike. To beat Dredge, apply a lot of varied graveyard answers (different types and costs of permanents and spells), and don’t forget about Hollow One.

Void Winnower beats all of these decks.

Eternal Weekend Dining in Pittsburgh

We had a few food recommendations for Pittsburgh. Primanti Brothers is kind of a Steel City tradition. They make big sandwiches that frequently include the french fries in the sandwich (a concession to steel workers who needed to eat their lunch in a hurry). Hopefully your waiter sticks around.

The Original Hotdog Shop, better known as “The O,” is kind of a Magic: The Gathering tradition, as it was the frequent meeting spot of Team CMU, one of the early premier Pro Tour teams, which was based in Pittsburgh. You can get giant fries, burgers, hotdogs, and beer in this casual, college atmosphere. Open late.

Last year’s hits for Team Serious were Emporio and Starlite Lounge, each of which specializes in its own brand of comfort food. Emporio calls itself “A Meatball Joint” and lets you choose your meatball, sauce, and method of conveyance (pasta, bun, or fries). This was literally all I heard about after Eternal Weekend last year. Starlite Lounge appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and serves three kinds of pierogis, as well as other home-cooked Polish diner food.

Nearby the convention center, Josh recommended Condado for their tacos and margaritas. They do a good job offering creative combination tacos, as well as letting you build your own. You’ll have to challenge yourself to see if you can acquire margaritas on the run between rounds.

This year Team Serious members Jerry Yang and Rajah James had some recommendations of places they’ve been and places they were looking to try. In no particular order:
Robert Wholey & Co. for seafood and fish sandwiches.
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina for fresh South American food.
Ephasus Mediterranean for pizza with a Turkish twist.
Nicky’s Thai Kitchen for Thai food voted best in Pittsburgh.
Yuva Indian Kitchen for Indian food, including lots of vegetarian options.
Bangal Kabab House for Indian tandoori dishes and kebabs.

If you find anything you like, be sure to let us know for future years!

Questions for Discussion

What scares you most about the current Vintage metagame? What scares you most about a seafood buffet in Pittsburgh?

Conclusion

Thanks for listening! We hope our view of the Vintage metagame was helpful and insightful, or at least entertaining. Have fun in Pittsburgh. We’ll look forward to any questions or comments here or The Mana Drain or on Twitter. You can also email us at seriousvintagepodcast@gmail.com.