Serious Vintage Episode 39: Planeswalking Around Town

For episode 39, Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple) talk about the role of planeswalkers in Vintage, speculate baselessly about some new cards in War of the Spark, and discuss sous vide and other novel methods of cooking.

Here’s the timestamped table of contents for your listening ease and enjoyment:
00:42 – A Brief, Half-Educated History of Planeswalkers in Vintage
26:56 – What Do We Do With 36 New Planeswalkers?
43:16 – Sous Vide? So What?
Total runtime: 55:29

Planeswalkers in Vintage

I want to start the writeup with a lament, actually, for the loss of That website was a longtime store of Vintage decks and knowledge from the paper and early online days of the format, going back to 2002. I did a lot of research there for articles and podcasts and considered it a great source for questions like “Who was the first person to top eight with Rage Extractor?” and “Is there a recent 5C Stax list?” The archives are still available, but they’re not searchable. It’s a blow to people like us who enjoy the historical perspective.

At least the archives of The Mana Drain are still in good working order. Using those, it seems like the first planeswalkers, from Lorwyn, mostly missed Vintage entirely. Little Jace Beleren wasn’t explosive enough and too generously gave cards to your opponent. Chandra Nalaar and Liliana Vess were too expensive, and Ajani Goldmane was too creature-centric for the time. In fact it was Garruk Wildspeaker who had the most attractive power-level to cost ratio, making into an experimental Worldgorger Dragon combo build by Rich Shay and a novel mono-green deck from Guli. These weird, attackable enchantments with activated abilities didn’t really go anywhere

It wasn’t until Tezzeret, the Seeker combined with a newly re-re-un-re-errata’d Time Vault in 2008 that planeswalkers really took hold. Suddenly there was an entirely new deck archetype—two if you distinguish Turbo Tezz from the regular kind—that featured an entirely new card type. And it was winning! Tezzeret still won in a very Vintage-y way, that is, immediately. You had one to stop your opponent from taking all the turns, which meant short-term answers like counterspells and artifact removal were reasonable. Still, Thirst for Knowledge was restricted in 2009.

Then, in 2010, Jace, the Mind Sculptor appeared in Worldwake. There was a lot of discussion when the text first appeared, with players trying to determine the new card’s role, if it had one. You should really treat yourself to skimming that thread, as it’s hilarious in hindsight. Big Jace didn’t catch on right away, but it definitely left a mark on the format. Jace paired nicely with Dark Confidant as a draw engine in control decks, so well that Owen Turtenwald won the 2010 Vintage Championship with it as a three-of.

Jace succeeded in making the game longer, and Gush and Frantic Search were unrestricted in October 2010 to compete in that environment. It’s at this point that Vintage really turned more towards creatures as part of a strategic plan. Stuff on the board started being more important than stuff in the hand, and planeswalkers, creatures, and removal jockeyed for superiority. (This is actually where Jace Beleren (the card) started to show up, as a counter to players trying to push the envelope on Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Beleren was slightly cheaper and could strand an opponent’s Mind Sculptor in hand. It was kind of a weird time.)

There haven’t been so many planeswalkers that reached Tezzeret or Jace status. Dack Fayden certainly made an impact, particularly as an anti-strategy against Workshop decks, encouraging the use of Arcbound Ravager alongside Lodestone Golem and necessitating Phyrexian Revoker. And the bar has gotten lower for other planeswalkers to be tested. Even unexpected hits like Arlinn Kord, Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast, and Tamiyo, Field Researcher have made Vintage Top 8s.

So It’s WAR

Now we enter a new era of planeswalkers. Previously, they had been weird, attackable enchantments with activated abilities. Now they have static and triggered abilities too! This puts even more emphasis on preserving a board full of stuff as you increase your value as the game goes on. Not only do planeswalker abilities draw you virtual spells each turn, but you’re further rewarded for keeping a board full of stuff. Creatures and removal—particularly if it covers a variety of permanent types—thus get more important as well.

We look at some cards from War of the Spark completely without context aside from being a Vintage-focused podcast. Certainly there are a few standout planeswalkers that could slot easily into an existing Vintage deck or something similar, and War of the Spark seems like it will have a major impact on the format.

Consider Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, or Ral, Storm Conduit, as a fifth copy of Young Pyromancer with benefits like comboing a little with Time Vault or copying Ancestral Recall or any of Vintage’s other great spells. Teferi, Time Raveler, could make it into Jeskai as a control piece, or into Paradoxical Outcome as anti-counterspell technology. Maybe Teyo, the Shieldmage, or Dovin, Anarch of Bolas (don’t forget hybrid mana can be mono-colored!) find a place in a mono-white prison deck alongside various Thalias and other white weenies.

Karn, the Great Creator, seems like a shoo-in for a Mishra’s Workshop deck. Despite being a four-drop nonartifact, Karn’s one-sided Null Rod ability is powerful, particularly in the mirror and against Paradoxical Outcome, where it can’t be removed by artifact hate. Being able to get artifacts out of your sideboard or that were exiled is also strong, potentially game-winning and well worth four mana in an artifact combo deck like Two-Card Monte. Karn’s suite of abilities could also find a home in Paradoxical Outcome decks, similar to Teferi; Karn can shut down opposing Shops or the Mirror and provide an alternate route to victory.

Even getting old effects on new card types could be exciting. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, is a new Laboratory Maniac, potentially with a built-in path to an empty library. Narset, Parter of Veils, is similar to something like Notion Thief in conjunction with Dack Fayden or any number of draw-sevens. And Ashiok, Dream Render, potentially shuts down tutor-heavy combo decks like a one-sided Mindlock Orb or permanent Shadow of Doubt. These may not see long-term heavy play without help, but they have some interesting applications.

Beyond planeswalkers there are plenty of other interesting cards in the set. Some combo-minded players are salivating over Bolas’s Citadel, which seems to combine Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Channel into one Tinker-ready package, and (particularly as I write that sentence out) seems nuts. An aggressive, black-based storm or Goblin Charbelcher deck make use of that if players aren’t too scared of Mental Misstep to run Dark Ritual. And if planeswalkers do run roughshod over Vintage, The Elderspell has some seriously exciting text for two mana.

I realize this section reads like a bit of a laundry list of card names, but that’s because War of the Spark has great potential. The addition to Vintage of this many planeswalkers (and associated cards) that are reasonably costed with reasonable abilities is unprecedented.

Food and Drink: Unconventional Ovens

We close this episode with a discussion of sous vide and other cooking techniques for the lazy hipster. Geoff likes the convenience of long-term, constant-temperature hot water baths for his bachelor chow of salmon. He can put his filet-o-fish into a bucket in the afternoon, set the temperature on the sous vide wand, and return later when he wants to eat. There’s no chance of overcooking, and a quick sear in a pan or on the grill adds caramelized flavor. It’s trendy and fun! And as you’ll learn in the podcast, you can sous vide pretty much anything, including phones.

Josh is intrigued by cooking salmon in the dishwasher or on top of a car engine during a long road trip. Nat adds that he used to cook Pop-Tarts in a hot pot in his dorm in college.

We all do what must be done to survive.

Questions for Discussion

Which is Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s best ability? What different planeswalkers have you played in Vintage? Did you ever go crazy and, like, BOOM! seven-mana Garruk, Apex Planeswalker instead of playing, like, Yawgmoth’s Bargain? What War of the Spark cards spark your interest? Did you ever cook fish in your dishwasher? How about just throwing a steak in the dryer to tenderize it? What’s the most expensive card you’ve ever sous vide’ed?


Thanks for listening! We should have something special coming up in the next few weeks so stay tuned! We’ll look forward to any questions or comments here or The Mana Drain or on Twitter. You can also email us at