Vintage Masters Sneak Peek – Vaulting Through Vintage

In the pantheon of historical Vintage/Type I decks, there are few strategies that have the ruthless efficiency of untapping Time Vault to take extra turns repeatedly. Taking extra turns in Magic has always been fun (thank you, Time Walk!), but taking all the turns is even better.

From the earliest days of Magic (like the Wild Magic era), mages have sought to use and abuse the power of the mighty Time Vault, including multi-card combos like Time Vault + Animate Dead + Instill Energy.


This would turn the Time Vault into a creature, which you could then untap each turn without penalty, and you could tap to take another turn, and essentially take all the turns once you had established your combo.

Restriction, Banning, Errata, and Unrestriction of Time Vault

The insanity was short-lived though, as the DCI restricted Time Vault in the first DCI Floor Rules announcement in January of 1994, and then later in March of 1994 Time Vault was banned until March of 1996, when it was made legal and errata was issued.

From the NetRep archives:
New Time Vault text, with correction:
Does not untap as normal. If Time Vault is tapped and does not have a time counter, you may skip your turn to untap Time Vault and put a time counter on it. {tap}: Remove the time counter from Time Vault to take an additional turn immediately before the next normal turn. Comes into play tapped.

So as part of the cost to untap Time Vault a specific ‘time counter’ had to be added, which would prevent most of the unfair untap abuse. It would remain used sparingly over the next decade.

Time Vault + Flame Fusillade

Fast forward a number of years, and an untold number of changes to the Oracle text of Time Vault, and we saw the release of Ravnica: City of Guilds in late 2005. Before the set was even released, people were already dreaming up combos with the spoiled card Flame Fusillade. The wording of Time Vault in 2005 was as follows:

Time Vault
Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn’t untap during your untap step.
Skip your next turn: Untap Time Vault and put a time counter on it.
T: Remove all time counters from Time Vault: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability if only there’s a time counter on Time Vault.

Flame FusilladeSo with Time Vault in play you could cast Flame Fusillade, and then activate Time Vault countless times until your opponent and any problematic creatures were rendered dead and gone. You could essentially untap Time Vault as many times in one turn as you wished, because your opponent would never get the chance to take the turns they would have been rewarded by untapping Vault.

And best of all? This combo was legal in Legacy! Vintage was used to broken combos, but as Time Vault was unrestricted in both Vintage and Legacy at the time, the combo was ripe for abuse in both formats. Dust off those Beta Time Vaults and shiny foil Goblin Welders!

There was never a best “Flame Vault” deck in Vintage or Legacy, but there were quite a few interesting lists floating around at the time. There were Blue/Red Intuition-based lists, Burning Wish-based mono-Red lists, and even Black/Red lists with Grim Tutor and Burning Wish.

Check out this Burning Wish and Enlightened tutor-packed Legacy version:

BHWC FlameVaultStax, by Jaco October 2005

Business (33)
Enlightened Tutor
Burning Wish
Flame Fusillade
Time Vault
Tangle Wire
Crucible of Worlds
Karn, Silver Golem
Seal of Cleansing
Hanna’s Custody
Phyrexian Furnace

Mana Sources (27)
Mox Diamond
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Gemstone Mine
Sideboard (15)
Flame Fusillade
Echoing Ruin
Boiling Seas
Rolling Earthquake
Chalice of the Void
Phyrexian Furnace
Tormod’s Crypt
Circle of Protection: Red

Throughout the 20 year history of Magic time and time again it has been demonstrated that hybrid decks with a high tutor density are among the best decks, and this was no exception. Our team at the time never took this to the Grand Prix circuit (favoring powerful Landstill variants), but this version was among the most powerful. It had redundancy, powerful tutors to find both parts of the combo kill, and answers to nearly everything.

At the first Legacy Grand Prix (Grand Prix: Philadelphia 2005) Flame Vault hardly made a dent (other than winning a GP Trial), but was still very much under development, and represented a potential problem as interest in Legacy began to boom.

Wizards addressed this in April 2006 when implementing Oracle changes to a number of cards, and Magic Rules Manager Mark Gottlieb announced the changes and reasoning in an Ask Wizards column. Time Vault was among a group of cards that WotC viewed did not function as originally intended, and updated these cards to reflect their “original intent”:

Time Vault
Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn’t untap during your untap step.
At the beginning of your upkeep you may untap Time Vault. If you do put a time counter on it and you skip your next turn.
T: Remove all time counters from Time Vault: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability only if there’s a time counter on Time Vault.

The updated wording neutered the Flame Vault combo, and there was an air of both consternation and praise of the change.

More Errata, and Tezzeret the Seeker

Fast forward again to 2008, and WotC was still updating Oracle text on cards to remove power-level errata and restore them closer to the original developers’ intent with modern templating. Eternal author and mainstay Stephen Menendian was not satisfied with their 2006 interpretation of Time Vault, and had been beating the drum about restoring Time Vault’s functionality closer to the Alpha version, as his arguments carefully laid out discrepancies as compared to many other recently updated cards.

In September 2008 WotC responded in a big way. In the Rules Update Bulletin Mark Gottlieb announced functional Oracle changes to Time Vault and wrote “This ability is getting a rule written specifically to support it: the untap is considered to be the first thing that happens during the next step that actually takes place (in case any triggered abilities or state-based effects care).”

The updated Oracle text was:

Time Vault
Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn’t untap during your untap step.
If you would begin your turn while Time Vault is tapped, you may skip that turn instead. If you do, untap Time Vault.
T: Take an extra turn after this one.

People were understandably going bananas. Voltaic Key + Time Vault would be a backbreaking combo for just a few mana, and WotC decided to ban Time Vault in Legacy and restrict it in Vintage upon it’s re-errata at the end of September. This also just happened to be right after Tezzeret the Seeker had just been spoiled, and was set to be released the following month in Shards of Alara. Vintage was set to change in a big way.


Buoyed by Thirst for Knowledge or Dark Confidant and powerful tutor-laden Blue/Black deck shells, dedicated Key-Vault and Tezzeret decks made an immediate an ongoing impact on Vintage. Hiromichi Itou won the 2009 Vintage Championship with a fairly standard UBR Confidant Key-Vault deck, and Brian DeMars’ Steel City Vault deck also proved potent that year.

Over the next couple of years pilots would push this to the logical extreme, highlighted by Spaniard Omar Rohner’s captivating win in the 2011 Bazaar of Moxen with Turbo Tezzeret, besting Italy’s Lorenzo Fedeli (also playing TurboTezz) in the finals.

TurboTezz, by Omar Rohner – 1st place, Bazaar of Moxen 2011

Business (33)
Force of Will
Steel Sabotage
Hurkyl’s Recall
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Thirst for Knowledge
Imperial Seal
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Tezzeret the Seeker
Time Vault
Voltaic Key
Blightsteel Colossus
Sensei’s Divining Top
Yawgmoth’s Will

Mana Sources (27)
Grim Monolith
Mox Ruby
Mox Pearl
Mox Sapphire
Mox Jet
Mox Emerald
Black Lotus
Mana Crypt
Sol Ring
Mana Vault
Tolarian Academy
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Underground Sea
Sideboard (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Hurkyl’s Recall
Sower of Temptation
Steel Sabotage
Relic of Progenitus
Mental Misstep

After the restriction of Thirst for Knowledge in June 2009, many decks turned to Dark Confidant as the draw engine du jour, and this became the supporting shell for a number of highly successful mutations over the past few years. The 2010 Vintage Championship saw Owen Turtenwald and Bob Maher place 1st and 2nd with the same UBG Confidant Key-Vault deck. The 2011 Vintage Championship also saw Key-Vault decks do well (grabbing 2nd and 3rd place), as did the 2012 Vintage Championship, which saw Germany’s Marc Lanigra win with a more controlling URB Key-Vault deck.

TurboTezz has also been consistently doing well over the years, performing in the US and especially in Spain on the famed LCV circuit. In January 2013 notable Spanish Vintage mage Carles Miñón won the monthly LCV tournament with an interesting take on TurboTezz which featured Oath of Druids and multiple Rune-Scarred Demons in the sideboard. Vintage players have frequently used Oath of Druids as a sideboard tactic over the past decade, but this was the first time TurboTezz (or any dedicated Key-Vault) deck used it to shore up the deck’s weaknesses and provide a different avenue of attack. This sideboard technology in TurboTezz would spread throughout Europe and the USA over the next year. Why do we mention all of this?

The 2014 Bazaar of Moxen (the largest Vintage tournament of the year) was conquered by Gwen DeSchamphelaere with Tezzeret control once again. Gwen’s adoption of the Oath of Druids and Demon sideboard helped him greatly throughout the event, and proved that Tezzeret is still one of the preeminent decks of the format on a large stage.

Time Vault decks are not the only successful strategy in Vintage, but have certainly made their case as the best performing one at the top, time and time again, even after seeing cards like Thirst for Knowledge restricted, and new disruptive cards like Abrupt Decay added to the card pool.

Vintage Masters and a New Vintage Metagame?

Magic Online and Vintage Masters will allow players everywhere to congregate and test their mettle on a frequent basis, which potentially has the ability to more clearly shape a global Vintage metagame, and provide a chance to see the ebb and flow as the metagame shifts and oozes with innovation.

With that please join us in previewing what is sure to be a true powerhouse of the online Vintage world:

Time Vault Vintage Masters

Time Vault was first seen in Magic Online in Masters Edition IV, but will be featured in Vintage Masters with the modern frame and all new artwork by Yeong-Hao Han.

It is with our sincere hope that all of those in the community who are intrigued by and able to play Vintage on Magic Online do so, and also that Wizards of the Coast will in turn provide greater support to the Vintage community, both online and in real world events. Vintage is truly a Magic format for the ages, and as we head into the next 20 years it will be great to see the format blossom in a new era.