Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2007

The Vintage format pivoted from the Gifts and Pitch Long era headlong in to a new Gush metagame in 2007. Dive into this exciting chapter in the History of Vintage to observe the metagame changes resulting from new sets, the tournament successes that propelled the format forward, and the unexpected twists and turns in the evolution of the great Schools of Magic.

[Begin Free Excerpt From Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2007]
Through the winter of 2006-07 small tournament organizers regularly hosted Vintage competition across North America, Europe, and beyond. In the United States, retail stores like Myriad Games in New Hampshire, Black Gold in Colorado, and RIW Games in Michigan cultivated Vintage outposts and held regular, if not monthly, Vintage tournaments. But the largest and longest running tournament organizer was Ray Robillard, and The Mana Drain Open series. In November 2006 he announced that his famous series would be relocating to nearby Stratford, Connecticut in mid-January.

Once again, Vintage players emerged from winter slumber and dusted off their cards for the annual pilgrimage to Connecticut for another unforgettable event. In addition to a delicious prize platter, which included Power or Library of Alexandria for the Top 8, Ray promotes a fun and festive atmosphere, making every TMD Open an unforgettable experience. Aside from the Vintage competition, Ray regularly organizes side events, trivia competition, Vintage Scattegories, awards, and other activities that will not be found at Grand Prix’s. Illustrating the sense of both fun and whimsy that Ray strives to create, he announced free side event competition of “Team Urza’s Legacy Duplicate Sealed,” to start 15 minutes after the Swiss rounds of the main event finish. As one community member remarked, “This awesome side event is a perfect example of Ray’s stellar dedication to constantly improving the TMD Open.”

153 players showed up to compete and soak up community vibes in the middle of January. Continuing a trend set by recent StarCityGames events and the Vintage Championship itself, Gifts once again took down the tournament in the hands of Andy Probasco, a regular grinder in the Vintage scene, and a 2005 Vintage Championship finalist.

Empty Gifts, by Andy Probasco - 1st Place The Mana Drain Open 10 (Waterbury) 01-14-2007

Business (35)
Force of Will
Mana Drain
Hurkyl’s Recall
Tormod’s Crypt
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Skeletal Scrying
Mystical Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Merchant Scroll
Gifts Ungiven
Empty the Warrens
Tendrils of Agony
Yawgmoth’s Will

Mana Sources (25)
Dark Ritual
Lotus Petal
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mana Crypt
Sol Ring
Tolarian Academy
Library of Alexandria
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Volcanic Island
Underground Sea
Snow-Covered Island
Sideboard (15)
Pithing Needle
Tormod’s Crypt
Hurkyl’s Recall
Red Elemental Blast
Empty the Warrens

Defeating a Workshop pilot in the finals, it was notable how far Andy, once the leading proponent of the Thirst-based Gifts strategy, had retreated from that approach and adopted the key tenets of MeanDeck Gifts, including a nearly full complement of Merchant Scroll. Andy’s signature Repeals were retained, however, for good reason. Andy’s deck brilliantly featured a tactic that virtually everyone else in Vintage had overlooked from Time Spiral: Empty the Warrens.

Empty the Warrens was dismissed by most Vintage players, including myself, as a poor substitute for Tendrils of Agony. Although it required one less colored mana, it was in an off-color for most combo decks (which were blue and black primarily, and not always in that order). Accordingly, I omitted mention of Empty in my Time Spiral set review entirely, coming after the rise of Pitch Long, which was straight blue-black. Andy’s victory represented more than his skills with cards, it symbolized the value of strategic insight over complacent oversight.

Empty the Warrens joined the ranks of cards like Necropotence, Dark Confidant, as well as the entire slate of dredge spells, as cards that were almost entirely overlooked for Vintage play upon their release, but which proved to be quite potent over time. It turns out that Empty’s scaling capacity – to be played for a half dozen tokens or more as early as Turn 1, for far less work than is required to generate the critical mass to win with Tendrils of Agony, was the key. Tendrils, in contrast to Empty, is an all or nothing proposition. Empty works in small doses or larger ones. And Empty is often better against Workshop decks, where a lethal Tendrils may be a difficult climb. Empty also fit Andy’s plan of using Repeal as a general purpose tempo play and deck thinner. At a minimum it functioned as a useful storm generator that added two storm in many cases (by bouncing and replaying a Mox, for example). Andy also employed the services of Tendrils and the usual MeanDeck Gifts combo package, but the format was officially on notice that Empty the Warrens was a deadly threat.[End Free Excerpt]