Top 8 at 2016 Vintage Champs NA with White Eldrazi

Considering this is my first article, I feel compelled to introduce myself. My name is Mike VanDyke. I’m a physics professor from central Texas, and I’ve been playing Magic since 1994. The first tournaments I played in were shortly after the creation of Type 2, and Magic has served as my primary competitive outlet for most of my life.

When I finished my Ph.D. I found myself with more time on my hands than graduate school allowed. I spent 2014 playing at Grand Prix events throughout the United States to reasonable success. While I never reached Silver status, or qualified for the Pro Tour that year, I learned a lot about myself as a Magic player. I learned how to use my personal strengths to become a better deck-builder and player during that time.

Currently, I play a significant amount of eternal Magic, including Vintage, Legacy, 93/94, and Modern (if that counts as eternal). I’ve also been an avid Hearthstone player for about a year. I enjoy deck-building almost as much as I enjoy playing card games because I can apply some of what I do in my work to the deck-building process.

Competitive Vintage is a relatively new experience for me. For the last few years, I’ve had a proxied Vintage deck built, but I rarely found the opportunity to play. My friend William Herdman convinced me to come with him to Eternal Weekend this year and offered to let me borrow any cards he wasn’t using in the Vintage event.

Choosing and Testing White Eldrazi

Of the meager handful of decks I had to choose from, I built White Eldrazi because it is powerful and fit my playstyle the best. After acquiring the cards on Magic Online, I spent the next two months testing the deck in various forms. This is the version I settled on the weekend before Eternal Weekend:

White Eldrazi, by Mike VanDyke

Business (31)
Containment Priest
Phyrexian Revoker
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thorn of Amethyst
Chalice of the Void
Eldrazi Displacer
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher

Mana Sources (29)
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mana Crypt
Sol Ring
Ancient Tomb
Cavern of Souls
Eldrazi Temple
Strip Mine
Sideboard (15)
Aegis of the Gods
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mangara of Corondor
Null Rod
Pithing Needle
Stoneforge Mystic
Umezawa’s Jitte

I generally approach deck-building analytically, using statistics to help me make appropriate decisions. The details of how I built White Eldrazi are likely best served as a separate article. I prepared a sideboard guide for the most common matchups that I referenced periodically over the course of the event. The guide can be found as a downloadable PDF here. However, there are two unconventional sideboard choices that I feel obligated to address.

Stoneforge Mystic – I was somewhat unhappy playing Swords to Plowshares in the sideboard and was looking for a more proactive sideboard card against other creature-based strategies. I saw Andy Probasco playing White Eldrazi on Magic Online with a main deck Stoneforge Mystic package in lieu of Reality Smasher. While not a Human, it can still be blinked by Eldrazi Displacer for value and it fits the basic strategy of White Eldrazi quite well.

Mangara of Corondor – I was looking for a card that could act as a generic answer to various permanents that also worked well with Eldrazi Displacer. Mangara also works with Karakas, and happens to be a Human. The first Cavern of Souls is often naming Human in this deck, so a single Mangara is not that difficult to cast. I would not recommend a second simply because of the double white mana cost.

Vintage Champs North America 2016

I was anxious to play some Vintage on Friday morning. With plenty of sleep and a nice breakfast, I was excited going into the first round.

Round 1 vs. Daniel Humphries (playing Oath)
Daniel participated in the 93/94 event the night before. He not only won with White Weenie, but he also won the award for Hardest Drinker. He seemed to be having a rough morning, to say the least, but still enthusiastic about playing Vintage.

Game 1:
I kept a hand of 6 with enough mana (including Black Lotus and Sol Ring) to cast Reality Smasher or Thalia, Heretic Cathar on turn 1, and the other on turn 2. I lead with Thalia and he answered with Force of Will. He cast Thoughtseize on his first turn, taking my Reality Smasher, and leaving me with no threats. I used Wasteland and Strip Mine to destroy the only two lands he played in the game. After a few turns of draw/go, I drew another Reality Smasher. He conceded when I cast a Thought-Knot Seer, to prevent me from seeing his hand and gaining further information.

I saw BUG colors, so I guessed that he was playing an Oath of Druids deck and boarded accordingly.

Game 2:
I resolved a Containment Priest and a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben rather quickly. He only played three lands and I just attacked for 4 each turn. He showed me his hand when the game was over – it contained Oath of Druids and Toxic Deluge.


Round 2 vs. Keith Seals (playing Shops)
Game 1:
He played a Sphere of Resistance on his first turn. He wound up stuck under his Sphere (along with my Thorn of Amethyst) more than I did, and was forced to take too much damage from his Ancient Tombs. I eventually killed him with a Reality Smasher after a few turns of draw/go.

Game 2:
After a mulligan to 6, he played a Phyrexian Revoker and named Eldrazi Displacer. My first turn Thought-Knot Seer showed me a handful of lands and a Tangle Wire. A Reality Smasher joined my Thought-Knot, and after a flurry of blocking and a painful Dismember, the board was clear. Unfortunately, he didn’t draw anything relevant off the Thought-Knot’s triggered ability (or over the next few turns). I kept playing threats and won the game in short order.


Round 3 vs. Justin Russell (playing Merfolk)
Game 1:
I played a first turn Thalia, Heretic Cathar that was copied by Phantasmal Image. I managed to kill it with Karakas, but the board stalled out due to True-Name Nemesis. The second and third True-Names were too much for me to handle.

Game 2:
I had a very aggressive hand this game with a first turn Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and a second turn Eldrazi Displacer. Shortly after, I cast back-to-back Reality Smashers. The first one was answered by Force of Will, but the one that resolved went the distance.

Game 3:
His hand was somewhat aggressive this game, but he stalled out. He was able to kill my first threat, but he was unable to deal with a board of Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Displacer, and Umezawa’s Jitte.


Round 4 vs. Nam Tran (playing 2-Card Monte)
Game 1:
There’s not a whole lot to say about this game. He killed me with Painter’s Servant and Grindstone very quickly – turn 3, I believe.

Game 2:
I played a first turn Aegis of the Gods that dealt most of the damage to him this game. Toward the end of the game, I cast a Thought-Knot Seer that revealed a Nature’s Claim and an Ancient Grudge, taking the Nature’s Claim. He died shortly thereafter.

It dawned on him while we were sideboarding that Aegis of the Gods is an Enchantment Creature. While he never actually assembled either combo during the game, killing my Aegis with Nature’s Claim would have given him a few additional draw steps to do so.

Game 3:
On his first turn, he emptied his hand and cast Wheel of Fortune. My new hand was about the same power level as what I had kept, including an Aegis, sufficient mana, and some other threats. He Nature’s Claimed my Aegis this game, but I ended the game shortly after casting Null Rod to supplement the pressure I had on board.


Round 5 vs. Jonathan Suarez (playing Mentor)
Game 1:
My hand was very aggressive this game, including Thorn effects. I took 12 damage from my Ancient Tomb, but he was unable to find a Monastery Mentor or a sweeper to take control of the game.

Game 2:
My first threat this game is answered by Force of Will, but I resolved a Thalia, Heretic Cathar. I developed a reasonable board, but I took about 6 damage from my Ancient Tomb this game. A Monastery Mentor combined with Time Walk put me out of my misery.

Game 3:
This game was featured in the round 5 video coverage and can be seen here at the 39:00 mark:


Round 6 vs. Vito Picozzo (playing Mentor)
Game 1:
I played a Thought-Knot Seer on turn 1, that was in turn exiled by Swords to Plowshares. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Eldrazi Displacer came down on turn 2, followed by a Reality Smasher on turn 3. He cast a Monastery Mentor and made a few tokens, but my Displacer easily cleared a path.

Game 2:
I didn’t have an amazing hand – it contained no Thorn effects which are pretty critical in the matchup – but I kept it because it had a nice curve. My turn 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar met a Swords to Plowshares and his early Monastery Mentor made quick work of my life total.

Game 3:
He kept a 1-land hand with Ancestral Recall and I kept a solid hand that included a few on-curve threats. Unfortunately, his Ancestral hit no additional lands and I Wasteland his only mana source. He answered my first two threats with Force of Will, but I eventually resolved a Thorn of Amethyst followed by a Reality Smasher. I attacked four times and the game was over.


Round 7 vs. Andrew Markiton (playing Shops)
I was absolutely crushed in the two games we played. My hands were fine, but Andrew played very well. We were done in about 15 minutes. I neglected to record notes after the match, aside from the information I always note on my life pad, so I have very few of the details. I got caught up in finding food, along with some singles I wanted to get signed, and ran out of time.


Round 8 vs. Josh Grosteffon (playing JacoDrazi)
Game 1:
Josh played first and cast 2 Endless Ones for X = 2 via Eye of Ugin. I destroyed his Eye on my first turn with a Wasteland, and took 4 on his next attack. On my second turn I cast an Eldrazi Displacer that prevents both of his Endless Ones from attacking. He was short on mana and the game ended quickly once I blinked away both of his Endless Ones with Displacer.

Game 2:
This game was slow going for both of us. The board stayed even, but he took a lot of damage between Ancient Tomb and Dismember to do so. My first attack was with a Thalia, Heretic Cathar that put him to 9 life. A few turns later, I resolved a Reality Smasher to seal the deal.


Round 9 vs. Mike Kiesel (playing White Eldrazi)
Game 1:
He got ahead early with a board of Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer. I assembled the Containment Priest + Eldrazi Displacer combo, and considering my low life total, exiled both of his creatures before attacking. Unfortunately, he had his own Eldrazi Displacer on the next turn that exiled mine. I luckily drew another Displacer on the following turn and took back control of the game. He was unable to establish a board again.

Game 2:
The game played out somewhat slowly and we hit board parity as we simultaneously drew lands for multiple turns in a row. I drew an Eldrazi Displacer and, with all the mana I had available, could tap all his creatures each turn. On the turn before I won, I attacked him down to two life. I then promptly forgot his life total and used Strip Mine to destroy his Ancient Tomb. Oops!

Nine rounds is a lot of Magic, and I was happy to be done for the day, qualified for the Top 8 Sunday playoff!


Top 8 Quarterfinals vs. Jacob Kory (playing Stax)
When I saw what Jacob was playing after the Swiss rounds were over, I was discouraged to say the least. I played against Stax during testing. I knew game 1 would be hard and the sideboard games would be harder. My sideboard was not built with this matchup in mind, since it is not commonly played.

Game 1:
After a mulligan to 5, I cast a turn 2 Eldrazi Displacer and it was the only threat I played all game. It eventually died in combat and I conceded when he resolved Crucible of Worlds with Wasteland in the graveyard.

Game 2:
I played a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on my first turn. Jacob’s first turn was a land followed by a Mox. I played a Wasteland on my turn and passed after attacking with Thalia. He played Smokestack via Mishra’s Workshop and I decided to Wasteland his Workshop at the end of his turn. My hand is not spectacular, so my hope here was to restrict his mana so that he couldn’t afford to keep the Smokestack. It didn’t work because he played Tabernacle at the Pendrell Vale on his next turn. I was forced to sacrifice my entire board, prompting him to finally sacrifice the Smokestack to itself. He redeveloped rather quickly and I conceded when I saw a Wurmcoil Engine hit the battlefield.


Vintage $25K Showdown at Champs

After making the Top 8 of the Vintage Championship, I didn’t want to spend Saturday playing Legacy. I signed up for the Vintage $25K Showdown and managed a record of 4-1-1, drawing into the Top 8 in round 6. I don’t have many details of the matches I played in this event since I spent any free time between matches hunting for more cards to get signed. After winning my quarterfinals match, a unanimous vote to split the prizes happened in the semifinals.

Some noteworthy comments about this event…

I played against Mike Kiesel and Jonathan Suarez again (two opponents from the Swiss on Friday). They are both skilled players and our games were intricate and well played.

I played against Sean O’Brien, but our games were very one-sided after he mulliganed numerous times. From what I heard, his deck was a Paradoxical Storm deck that won with Hunting Pack. I wish I could have seen more!

The Future of White Eldrazi

I’ve heard discussion that Eldrazi is only a temporary fixture in the Vintage metagame. I don’t believe that is the case. In regards to White Eldrazi, I believe the deck is a legitimate alternative to aggressive variants of Shops, but with a different set of good and bad matchups.

Part of my decision to play White Eldrazi over Shops was due to my inability to acquire a playset of Mishra’s Workshop for the event. However, even if Workshops were an option for me, I would still choose to play White Eldrazi for two reasons; (1) the ability to play Containment Priest helps in multiple matchups and (2) the popularity of JacoDrazi and other Null Rod decks convinced me not to play an artifact-based deck.

If those things remain true, I think White Eldrazi has a place in the metagame.

EC Old School 93-94 at Eternal Weekend 2016

I started playing 93/94 earlier this year and have loved it. These are the decks I wish I’d played when I was just getting into the game. There’s a small following where I live and we get together periodically to play, what I consider to be, the most civilized of Magic formats.

I didn’t do particularly well in the event (3-4), but my deck is available in the full report posted by Jaco right here on Eternal Central. I played 4 mirror matches in 7 rounds and realized that, despite how much I like playing Mirror Universe + Fireball, I’m probably much better off playing a version of The Deck centered around Copy Artifact. Many thanks to Danny Friedman for a particularly productive discussion.

Overall, I had a lot of great conversations and all my opponents were awesome people. If you can play this format, you should, and if you can play in an event hosted by Jaco, even better. He does a genuine service to the community hosting events like these (thank you!).

My Eternal Weekend Experience

My overall experience at Eternal Weekend was amazing. I mentioned to friends of mine that the Vintage community is miles above any other Magic community, in terms of friendliness, and mutual respect. I have yet to experience anything to the contrary, and that’s a breath of fresh air for any competitive Magic player.

I’ll be playing more Vintage on Magic Online and am planning to attend the larger Vintage events in the US in 2017. I’m hooked. If anyone has any questions or comments, I’ll be happy to respond below!

Thanks for reading,