X and Owen – On Workshops and Sucking

(Editor’s Note: this is Owen’s follow up to his Vintgage Champs 2010 report, and may or may not have appeared elsewhere but has been reprinted with permission of the author Owen Turtenwald to serve as a companion work with his other Vintage writing.)

Originally I was going to title this article “Why Lodestone Golem is the Worst Card in Vintage.” Ok, ok, hyperbole aside Lodestone Golem is not the actual worst card in Vintage, but I do believe that it is insanely overrated. For one thing, Lodestone says non-artifact which for some reason most people don’t consider a serious drawback. But when every deck you play against has about 10 artifacts, most of which provide mana and make his ability worse, it’s much less attractive. I can hear the forum responses now. “IT DOESN’T AFFECT MY SMOKESTACK!11!!1!” But you already have at least 4 mana for the Golem, which means you are playing Mishra’s Workshop so your deck has about 35 or roughly a million mana in it, so it’s not much of a bonus that he doesn’t affect your cards. The fact that you’re trying to restrict the mana that your opponent is playing is what is most important, because that makes all of your other Spheres that much better.

Mishra's WorkshopSecond, Lodestone costs 4 mana, but you only have Workshop in about 39-40% of your opening hands, and the same goes for Lodestone, meaning your odds of having your uber-combo aren’t all that great, and you still need another mana on top of that even after you’ve drawn your special artifact and special land. Additionally you only get to be on the play about half the games, and if your opponent is on the play and actually has a deck that does anything relevant the Golem has way less value. I’m not going to use a Menendian-esque bar graph or calculation to figure out how often someone gets a Turn 1 Golem on the play, but I do know it’s really not that often.

Finally, Lodestone Golem is a huge artifact which means if you play 4 in your Vintage deck, and it’s properly built, then you’re playing 4 Mishra’s Workshop. If you play 4 Mishra’s Workshop in your deck why bother even signing up for a Vintage tournament? Just go buy a DVD, or 50 cans of soda, or two pizzas and thank me later.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the Jace deck. To the numerous people who have said “they broke the format and played 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor when everyone else was running 2!,” that was only a last minute decision and I’m pretty sure the main reason we decided to run 3 Jace is simply because it’s a good card and we just wanted to draw it a lot.

Jace, the Mind SculptorWhile I’m on this topic I’m going to go ahead and say Jace should be restricted. It’s easily better than Thirst for Knowledge and Fact or Fiction, and you could even argue that 3-4 Jace is better than the 1 Gifts you are allowed, although it’s obvious that 4 Gifts would be more degenerate and just flat out better. Jace was just insane for me all day. I was using it to bounce Terastodon, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Dark Confidant, Goblin Welder, and Lodestone Golem. When needed I could quickly drown people in card advantage. Yeah a Brainstorm every turn is only drawing an extra card a turn but you rip through your deck so fast by seeing 3 extra cards a turn, and when combined with the fetchlands it only takes one or two turns for your opponents fate to really be sealed. When I was way ahead or my opponent way behind I could just use it to control their topdecks which is pretty powerful in Vintage, where a good amount of games are won and lost on topdecks. It’s also a win condition, so if you face Conley “fetch, sac, take2” Woods and he Bitter Ordeals your Time Vault, Inkwell, and so on, you almost never run out of ways to actually win the game. Enough can not be said about Jace.

So in conclusion I think the deck we played was very strong and a great choice for the field (clearly I’d say this even if it wasn’t). I felt like I had a big advantage against Oath of Druids because of Trygon Predator and Nature’s Claim, and all the tools I could ask for against Workshops. Blue mirror matches in Vintage are the same as they’ve always been. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty satisfying to beat The Great One in the Finals, even though it wasn’t exactly me doing the beating in the last game. It was a blast to play Vintage again because it’s just a fun format. It explains why people like Luis Scott-Vargas, Matt Sperling, David Ochoa, and David Williams regularly get together at events and play the format casually.