A retrospective on a tumultuous and exciting year in Vintage.

The 2007 Vintage Year in Review

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Time_Walk The letter Y!ou've probably heard the saying "time flies when you're having fun." The opposite is also true. Can you remember sitting in your last period class in high school, practically counting down the ticks of the clock, hoping, praying, begging for those minutes to pass so 3pm rolls around and classes let out? You've also probably heard someone remark, perhaps a parent or an aunt, that each year seems shorter than the last, the older they get. How can this be? Is it simply that old people have more fun?

When you're engrossed in some activity, a sport, a game, an occupation, a relationship, or some other pursuit, you aren't focused on time – you aren't even conscious of it. But when you look back on what you've done, when you reflect upon your experience, there is a fullness about it, the impression of an authentic experience. It's like the first time you go to Disneyland. It may have only been a few days (or even a day), but it stands out. It seems much longer. It seems richer, more profound.

I am convinced that the feeling, the sensation of time flying, of the years getting shorter as we age is a product of routine. We all settle into routines. The things we remember are the deviations from our routines, the fresh, unique experiences of life.

That's an irony. Time flies when you are having fun, but it is precisely those experiences that we encode and remember; it is those experiences that linger with us and make our lives seem full. It's the mundane routines that age us, but bore us while we're in them. Fortunately, as we turn the page on 2007, there is no shortage of memories to take with us – no shortage of experiences to reflect upon.

2007 was the most surprising year in Vintage history as well as one of its most dynamic. Not only have recent printings made a big splash in Vintage, but the DCI's tweaking of the restricted list unleashed a tsunami in Vintage. On a personal note, 2007 was particularly poignant for me.

Let's stroll down memory lane and reflect upon the good times, big laughs, and great games.

Before launching into 2007, I want to give you an opportunity to time travel even further back in time. For the past three years, I've written annual retrospectives. If you are interested in peering further back into Vintage past, check out these articles:

Gifts on Top

When we left 2006, Meandeck Gifts, a blue based combo-control deck using the dual engine of Merchant Scroll and Gifts Ungiven, was vying with Pitch Long, a Grim Tutor storm combo deck filled to the brim with restricted draw-sevens and broken black enchantments, for the title of best deck in Vintage.

Andy Probasco had something to say about that. Andy Probasco noticed something that slipped by the collective consciousness of the Vintage community. He noticed a little card called Empty the Warrens. At the Waterbury (a massive semi-annual Vintage tournament in Connecticut) on January 13, 2007, Andy showed everyone what they had been missing.

Empty the Warrens, it turns out, is not just a bad Tendrils of Agony. Sure, it costs the same amount in converted mana, but it has two huge advantages. First, you don't need nine storm for Empty the Warrens to win the game. An Empty for four, five, six, seven, or eight storm is still a strong play. Second, Empty is good when Tendrils isn't. Empty is amazing versus Workshop prison, as it clogs up the ground, trumps Smokestacks and Tangle Wires, and beats Fish-type decks designed to prey on blue based control decks.

Empty the Warrens gives you the dream alternate win condition in Gifts. It is invulnerable to Tormod's Crypt, synergizes enormously with your bounce and general game flow, is invulnerable to cards like Goblin Welder and Swords to Plowshares, and decreases the number of dead draws in the deck. Andy ran an Empty in the main and two in the board. It paid off in spades. Andy ran through a field of 153 players and a Top 16 to take home a Black Lotus and earn the top honors.

Gifts Ungiven is one of the great Vintage engines. It took some time for Recoup + Yawgmoth's Will combo with Gifts to popularize. This combo (essentially making Yawgmoth's Will cost seven mana while putting a little more juice into your hand and graveyard) was so good that Gifts Ungiven was not long for this world.

Mana Drain is an excellent sink for Gifts Ungiven, and the Merchant Scroll into Ancestral Recall engine gave him an early boost of card advantage that helps him resolve Gifts Ungiven.

With slightly unconventional contours, Andy redefined how we think about Gifts in Vintage. Empty the Warrens sent chills throughout the rest of the metagame, warning Fishy Aggro-Control decks, Dark Confidant–filled libraries, and slow Mishra's Workshop prison pilots that a simple common from Time Spiral had the power to change everything. Empty the Warrens had arrived as the premiere addition from the still-fresh Time Spiral.

In the waning months of 2006, Time Spiral arrived on the Vintage scene with quite a bit of fanfare. Split second threatened to change the way people played Vintage, with Trickbind and Wipe Away irrefutably answering the two most popular threats in Vintage: Tendrils of Agony and Darksteel Colossus. The big surprise was that Trickbind and Wipe Away barely made a dent.

Instead, Empty the Warrens turned out to be the heavyweight from Time Spiral. That, and one other card...

Look Ma, No Mana!

Last year, Ichorid enthusiast and dredge connoisseur Albert Kyle had been experimenting, like a mad scientist in the basement, with various Manaless Ichorid decklists, including lists that sported Delraich. His efforts were assiduously recorded, like the diary of Dr. Jekyll, in the StarCityGames forums.

Albert realized that Serum Powder could virtually guarantee your chances of finding Bazaar. He ran the math, and found that if you mulligan into Bazaar of Baghdad, you have about a 94% chance of finding it.

A turn-one Bazaar of Baghdad means that you dredge your deck by turn three. You've seen it in Extended, but it's even more busted in Vintage.

On turn one, you play a land—an uncounterable effect that enables dredge. Turn-one Bazaar means turn two, upkeep dredge, draw step dredge. By turn three, you'll have dredged well over half your deck.

The release of Time Spiral gave Albert the final organ to animate his Frankenstein's monster. It was the flux capacitor to his Delorean, the warp core to his Enterprise.

Time Spiral gave him Dread Return.

Dread Return was another card that just flew under the radar of the collective consciousness of the Vintage community. In my Time Spiral set review, it was unmentioned.

Albert and his cohorts went quietly to work, testing, tweaking and tuning their baby.

Others took notice.

Rogue Vintage legend Robert Vroman posted in his trademark style that "We've been testing the manaless Ichorid deck intensely and found it nigh-unstoppable."

No kidding.

I opened my column on StarCityGames.com this year talking about this monster.

Take a look.

Manaless Ichorid, January 2007

This was the first time in the history of Magic that you can play a deck with no mana, no power, and win without even having to play a single spell. And when you do play spells, they are functionally uncounterable since Cabal Therapy will strip your opponent of any resistance before you play Dread Return on your Sutured Ghoul.

The traditional Vintage disruption package of Force of Will and Mana Drain has no effect on this deck. Combo decks are neutered and slowed by Chalice of the Void. Turn-one Chalice for 0 on the play can do damage to any deck trying to race. Leyline of the Void also takes out a huge number of threats, beginning with Yawgmoth's Will.

Most astonishingly, this deck has something no other Vintage deck, properly built, has: no Black Lotus. It's not just that this deck doesn't need Black Lotus, it doesn't want Black Lotus. This deck has no power—no Ancestral Recall, no Moxen, no Time Walk.

Future Sight, Future Bright

The Spring was a lull for the Vintage hobbyist, with preparations for Grand Prix–Columbus sucking up much of the Eternal press and oxygen from the room.

In April, the cards from Future Sight started leaking into the community's consciousness with nasty rumors of a new Force of Will. What started as a trickle became a flood with the Future Sight Prerelease in early May.

It seems that the future is indeed good for Vintage.

The biggest winner, it seems, was Ichorid. Bridge from Below, Street Wraith, and Narcomoeba were auto-includes. Phantasmagorian was another option (in lieu of Gigapede). Instead of being a turn three and a half deck, now the deck was a fairly consistent turn two and a half deck.

Fortunately, Wizards printed Yixlid Jailer in the same set and Leyline of the Void in the previous block. Leyline of the Void went from zero to hero in a few short months. Leyline of the Void was everywhere at the January Waterbury, killing the chances of the first iterations of Manaless Ichorid. Leyline of the Void is now the most played black card in Vintage Magic.

But it's not simply Ichorid decks that would get a huge boost out of Future Sight. Far from it!

Aven Mindcensor sent chills down the spine of the Tier One pilots. Remember how I explained that Gifts and Pitch Long constituted the Vintage tier one?

Both decks are built upon tutor engines: Merchant Scroll, Gifts Ungiven, and Grim Tutor, not to mention the Onslaught fetchlands. Aven Mindcensor stops the craziness in its tracks before it happens. The only question was: would it be enough?

Yawgmoth's Will was the dominant strategy in Vintage, and had been so for some time. Every single deck in Vintage embodied this strategy, complemented it, or assaulted it. Many decks do all three. In a sense, the Gifts / Long metagame had essentially divided itself neatly into two categories: Yawgmoth's Will decks and anti-Will decks.

The Yawgmoth's Will decks were the tutor decks. Gifts Ungiven used a heavy blue package, including Mana Drains, to protect itself and ensure build-up and survival to a massive, game-ending Yawgmoth's Will. The Pitch Long decks took a different tack. They used Dark Rituals and an assortment of blue pitch-magic to protect game-ending bombs and tutors that accelerated them into the Yawgmoth's Will finish. That's what Grim Tutor is for.

On the other side of the Vintage metagame, we saw Mishra's Workshop decks, Fishy decks using Null Rod, and other hate decks using Chalice of the Voids all aiming at these metagame overlords. The mana denial strategies were effective, if at all, by preventing Yawgmoth's Will from doing much. Chalice of the Void set at zero, for instance, prevents the recursion of Black Lotus with Yawgmoth's Will, making it much harder to just combo win.

StarCityGames.com announced what would become the second major Vintage tournament of the year for the middle of June. Star City Games would award a king's ransom to a Vintage Top 8 that would make Grand Prix competitors jealous. As the trees blossomed in the full beauty of early summer, a big chunk of the Vintage community made its way to the Star City Games headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia to battle for fun and profit. Although I personally could not make the trip due to professional exigencies, my team went into battle with a new Meandeck Gifts + Long hybrid, built around Merchant Scrolls and black enchantments called simply "The Mean Deck." Although my teammates placed 3rd and 5th respectively (only two attending), the winner was a Gifts / Long hybrid of a different sort.

Shawn Anthony easily piloted the Gifts / Long hybrid—simply named "Ritual Gifts"—to a dominating 1st-place finish. Here is what he played:

Alternatively, you could call this deck King Solomon's child, because it splits the difference right down the middle, even into the sideboard, where Shawn made the unusual move of putting four Mana Drains and the Tinker / Colossus kill.

And so, we can see precisely how Future Sight changed things.

What happened to Andy and his Gifts deck? Was he snookered by Aven Mindcensor?
Andy Probasco, hot off his Waterbury win, ran four Street Wraiths in his Gifts deck, but couldn't beat the new hybrid deck. He finished in 8th place.

Aven Mindcensor did make quite a splash though! Juan Rodriguez took one of the hot decks from 2006 and revamped it using Aven Mindcensor. Kevin Binswanger and JR Goldman finished in the Top 9 with the same deck.

The second place deck, however, was good ol' Fish—the anti-Will deck of them all. Although Mindcensor was conspicuously absent from the maindeck, Bennett Toms played three in his sideboard.

The remaining decklists can be found here.

Hulk Flash, Hulk Smash

Part of the reason for the long Vintage hiatus between the January Waterbury and SCG Roanoke was the divergence of Eternal attention to work on Legacy for Grand Prix–Columbus.

Coinciding with the release of Future Sight, the Magic Rules Team continued with their plan to remove the vestiges of power errata from the Magic Oracle. One particularly menacing change quickly caught the attention of the Magic community.

The blue instant Flash was issued new errata.

The consequences of this move are now legend. Grand Prix–Columbus has come and gone, and Flash is now banned in Legacy. "Grand Prix–Hulk Flash" played out without even the benefit of Future Sight.

Flash in Vintage was an opportunity to not only see how good Flash was in a faster format, but to see if Future Sight would put it over the top. The Flash decks that operated in Legacy did not have the benefit of either Summoner's Pact (used to find the Protean Hulk) or Pact of Negation to protect the combo at the speed of Force of Will. Would these boosts be enough to make Flash the best deck in Vintage? Not only that, but Future Sight gave Hulk Flash the most efficient kill in Virulent Sliver (plus Heart Sliver).

A number of players tested the deck, and Ben Kowal gave it a good shot. He fell short at 17th place, but created a model of Hulk Flash that future innovators could emulate.

Caught up in the new Leyline Wars that overlaid the fight between the Gifts / Long hybrid and the hate decks, Flash was the subject of collateral damage. Despite its inherent insanity, it couldn't break through.

Going into SCG Roanoke, what we had was a clear metagame, a metagame leftover from 2006:

Tier One:

Gifts decks
Long decks

Tier Two:

Fish
Bomberman
Stax
Ichorid
Other

And that metagame was challenged with the presence of Future Sight. Aven Mindcensor and Ichorid's new goodies brought new competitors to the field. The errata on Flash unleashed a new powerhouse combo into the field at the same time. These changes seriously challenged the lingering dominance of Gifts in the field.

The Gifts pilots rose to the challenge by fulfilling the hybridization process that had begun months earlier, and one that I prophesied in early Spring. Gifts and Pitch Long faced similar metagame threats and used similar answers. Now they were the same deck. The threat of Flash and Ichorid was answered by the omnipresent solution of Leyline of the Void.

Would the Mindcensor decks and Flash decks, just unleashed into the metagame, make further adjustments to stop this move? Would their development improve, and perhaps make a clear move into the Tier One?

Those questions, and others like them, will never be answered.

On June 1st, the DCI announced a massive wave of restrictions and unrestrictions that changed everything.

The DCI Announcement Heard 'Round the World

On June 1, 2007, the DCI made a few changes certain to transform Vintage.

DCI action in Vintage over the last four years could be characterized as prudent, careful, conservative, even Greenspanesque. This move marked a radical departure from that style of decision-making. In one bold move, the DCI unrestricted Voltaic Key, Mind Twist, Black Vise, and Gush while restricting Gifts Ungiven.

Black Vise and Voltaic Key were safe choices. Neither had seen play in years. Black Vise was a fright in the days of four Strip Mines. Voltaic Key was non-existent in Vintage.

Mind Twist, on the other hand, was one of the few cards ever banned for power reasons alone. Its unbanning in 2000 provoked enough attention that its unrestriction surely warranted some response, right?

Wrong. Mind Twist was an overcosted Duress in this metagame. The ebb and flow of Vintage, the way that games unfold and events transpire guarantees that a game plan built upon Mind Twist is a fragile one indeed. Misdirection lurks around every corner and Brainstorm in every crevice.

The restriction of Gifts Ungiven was a shocker. The general feel was that if this decision was to have been done, it should have been done six months earlier. Gifts had settled into a stable pattern of making up roughly 17% of Top 8s. It was merely one of several strong competitors, and by no means perceived as unbeatable. If anything, my team's design and performance with "The Mean Deck" suggested that Merchant Scroll was the superior tutor.

Nonetheless, the deed was done. Restricting Gifts, the engine near the center of the Yawgmoth's Will metagame was certain to change everything. Had that been the only change, I believe we would have seen combo in ascent. Combo got new tools with Flash and now no opposition in Gifts. Pitch Long variants with Empty the Warrens would have been the last remaining element of the old Yawg Will paradigm.

But that wasn't the last change. Perhaps to balance out this change, the DCI decided to unrestrict one of the "unrestrictables"—it decided to unleash Gush!

The Return of Gush

My reaction was a progressive continuum of shock, stupor, surprise, alarm, fear, annoyance, laughter. What had they done?!

Put it this way: Gush was restricted on June 1st, 2003, the very same day that the storm mechanic entered the format. Tendrils of Agony had never before existed in the same format as Gush. My fear was that the DCI thought it was getting Psychatogs and might find itself instead with an unstoppable combo deck on its hands.

Fortunately, those fears proved short-lived. Demonstrating that Vintage designers of 2003 were not incompetent, I found myself regressing to the exact Gro-a-Tog decklist that I had run in the Spring of 2003. Many others felt similarly.

Long-time Vintage enthusiasts were ecstatic to rebuild Gro-a-Tog (GAT) from those halcyon days of yore, those carefree days before turn-one kills and the storm mechanic.

Eager to see if their testing in local tournaments and the trickling results of Gush decks winning small tournaments could encore on a larger stage, 128 players showed up for war in the July Waterbury. No one was taking anything for granted.

After a grueling eight rounds of Swiss, a Top 8 emerged. Three elimination rounds later, a winner was declared. And the winner was....

Flash.

Apparently, it wasn't even close. In a GAT-infested Top 8 (even Andy Probasco switched to GAT), Hulk Flash mowed a path to victory.

Here's what won:

Justin made some small improvements over Kowal's design. First of all, he ran Tarmogoyf in the sideboard—a sign of things yet to come. Secondly, he ran a second Heart Sliver to overcome the deficit of having drawn one. Third, his sideboard was full of ways to deal with Leylines. He was not fooling around.

The second place deck, unsurprisingly, was Gro-a-Tog, revived after years of dormancy, piloted by none other than Rich Shay.

The decklists can be found here.

Although a new metagame had emerged, in a sense this was really a transition moment. It's what the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci described when defining the word crisis: "The old is dying and the new cannot be born." With Gifts out of the way, a host of New Englanders persisted in trying the Aven Mindcensor decks in this new metagame. Although Mindcensor rocked in the Gifts / Long metagame that existed mere months before, it no longer cut the mustard. Players were stuck into the old ways. The old was dead and dying, but the new could not be fully realized just yet.

Over the next month and a half, Flash proved itself a top-flight combo deck. Not only was it one of the decks most likely to Top 8, it was also the deck most likely to win a tournament once in Top 8.

This would not last.

The Flash moment was like a brief supernova, so brilliant and so bright, but the darkness that followed is Eternal.

The Vintage Champinship brought a clear view of what was really going on.

The 2007 Vintage World Championship

GenCon is a self-contained city of gamers. It is a cornucopia of fun. Every conceivable game is played at every hour of the day. And there is plenty of Vintage to be had.

There is no event in Vintage that garners as much attention, glamour and prestige as the Vintage Championship at GenCon. Not only is the prize the most lucrative and title the most honored, all of the major teams field their best and brightest, hoping to claim a piece of glory.

Playing in a Vintage tournament, the Vintage Championship no less, can be a terrifying experience. While in most formats you are almost guaranteed to be able to play land and see the inside of a few turns, in Vintage, you could be dead before your first play. And it's just not one or two decks that can do it. You could be Flashed out, eating 20+ poison counters from hasted Virulent Slivers. You could be Tendrils of Agony'd out of your misery. You could be locked out with turn one Trinisphere. And those are just the worst-case scenarios.

The modest possibilities are almost as frightening. A turn-one Mox, Forbidden Orchard, Oath of Druids could effectively lock you out of the game, but actually kill you on turn three. You could be staring down a Darksteel Colossus on turn one, courtesy of Tinker. Turn-one Bazaar of Baghdad could pave the way for a horde of Bridge from Below Zombie Tokens led by a marauding Flame-Kin Zealot on turn two.

It's not even the sheer speed of format as much as the gruesome number of ways you could die. Each match has the potential to be a horror house inspired by the imagination of Jigsaw, the villain from the Saw trilogy. Vintage may be fast, but the diversity of murderous strategies is what makes it so interesting. Because so many of the decks are so different from each other, every match brings to it an obscure section of the rules. Playing in Vintage demands an encyclopedic knowledge of Magical interactions.

Now picture yourself getting ready to compete in the Vintage World Championship. No format sanctioned by the DCI is as fast, brutal, and ruthless as Competitive Vintage Magic. You better strap yourself in, because it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Nearly 130 courageous souls made their way to the largest American gaming convention to fight for this:

But more than just artwork was on the line. Pride was the currency of this tournament. And it was not just "Vintage" players who wanted a piece of it. Patrick Chapin, Gadiel Szleifer, and many other Magic notables put on their game face, with high hopes.

After a grueling eight rounds of Swiss, eight battle hardened warriors stepped out of the carnage, their armor dripping with the blood of slain enemies.

Here's what made the Top 8:

2 Gro-a-Tog
2 Mishra's Workshop Prison (one with Smokestack, one without)
2 Storm Combo (one Pitch Long, one Mono-Black Tendrils)
1 Manaless Ichorid
1 Blue-Red Landstill

This Top 8 represented a nice-cross section of the Vintage landscape. Even the terrifying and virtually unstoppable Ichorid made its way through eight rounds of Swiss to claim a spot in the Top 4.

In this Top 8, we see a changing of the guard. Gro-a-Tog stepped out of the past, the long night of Gush's restriction, and made its way to glory, into the sun. Riding behind were a back of Mishra's Workshop artifact decks, hoping to rise to the top in a sea of Gush. But not to be left behind were the remnants of 2005 and 2006, Grim Tutor–based storm combo.

Out of this heated contest was the battle for supremacy over the future of Vintage. After the skirmishes were over and the bloodletting done, Gro-a-Tog was the clear victor.

Both Gro-a-Tog decks clawed their way to the finals, stepping over the corpses of Workshops and Grim Tutors.

If you are curious or merely want to be a spectator to this deadly sport, the coverage remains, frozen in time for all to enjoy. The inimitable Bill Stark and Wizards coverage team followed the event here with follow-up from the one and only Brian David-Marshall here.

You can even read a play-by-play capsule of the finals here and my tournament report here (don't worry, it's free!).

Here's what I played:

Winning this tournament was a joy. Vintage is a thrill ride for me; it's a roller coaster shot of adrenaline. Being able to represent the format I adore is a genuine honor.

With 2007 Vintage Championship now on the record books, it was clear to everyone that Gro-a-Tog was a force to be reckoned with.

Was this a sign of things to come, or would the Vintage brain trust find answers as the metagame shifted to accommodate this new visitor from the past?

Gush, Gush, Gush

Starcitygames announced another pit stop along its 2007 Power Nine circuit in Indianopolis one month after the Vintage Championship. Vintage players seemed to be excited about the new changes to the format and couldn't wait to give it another go.

Nearly 130 players made their way back to Indy and fought, this time, for Black Lotus, and the rest of the Power Nine. This time, the results could not have been clearer. With an authoritative voice, the Top 8 speaks for itself:

1 / 2 split) Empty Gush
1 / 2 split) Gro-a-Tog
3) Empty Gush
4) Gro-a-Tog
5) Manaless Ichorid
6) Gro-a-Tog
7) Gush Storm Combo
8) Empty Gush

That is:

3 Empty Gush
3 Gro-a-Tog
1 Gush Storm Combo
1 Manaless Ichorid

Owen Turtenwald's team, ICBM (I Can Beat Meandeck), opted to explore alternative win conditions in the Gro shell. They passed up the green maiden for Tinker + Darksteel Colossus, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and Empty the Warrens.

Although there were three different Gush decks in the Top 8 (3 Gro-a-Tog, 3 Empty Gush, and 1 Gush Combo), this was the first time in the history of modern Vintage that a major Top 8 was represented by seven decks using the same engine / shell. This is the most dominant Gush has ever been in Vintage tournaments. Not even Flash in Grand Prix–Columbus put up numbers like that.

It was now clear to everyone that Gush needed to be watched. If the metagame could not adjust, something would clearly have to be done. The question was: would Gush need to return to the restricted list? There would be one more opportunity to find out in 2007.

Win, Win, Lorywn

Star City Games slated its final tournament stop for the Power Nine series in 2007 for Chicago just after the release of Lorwyn. Would Lorywn right this sinking ship? Would metagame adjustments show further Gush dominance or a healthy metagame re-adjustment?

126 players arrived in the early November climes of western Chicago to battle for not simply one set of power, but two! This weekend would be a double-header.

This Top 8 has to be seen to be believed.

The winner, conquering Gro decks left and right and everything else the metagame threw at him, was Jamison Bryant playing what can only be described as Red-Green Beatz!!

Jamison Bryant's Red-Green Beatz

This deck brilliantly took advantage of some key printings in 2007—Magus of the Moon, Tarmogoyf, and, most impressively, Stingscourger—to foil an entire metagame. His technically perfect play and outstanding metagaming show that even a broken format can be cracked, even using "fair" colors.

Tarmogoyf, Magus of the Moon, and StingscourgerTake a look at the rest of the Top 8.

So, this Top 8 looked as follows:

3 Gush decks (2 Gro-a-Tog, 1 Empty Gush)
2 "Deez Naughts"
1 Red-Green Beatz
1 Storm Combo
1 Mono-Red Workshop Aggro

What happened? This tournament reflects the cumulative impact of all of the events of 2007.

Lorywn was huge, although not obviously so. The printing of Thorn of Amethyst altered the plans and thinking of everyone present. Thorn of Amethyst's mere presence in the format altered the gravity in Vintage. It brought things back to earth.

First and foremost, the success of Gro and the expected ascent of Workshop prison strategies scared off would-be combo players. Dark Ritual loses a lot of its luster when there are multiple Sphere of Resistance effects in play.

Secondly, many players figured that the answer to Thorn of Amethyst would be to emphasize creatures. Thorn, from a design point of view, incentivizes the use of creatures. Many players, myself included, anticipating a surge in Mishra's Workshop decks, an archetype that had been on the rise in the previous two months, added Tarmogoyf in the mainboard and sideboard.

Many other players came to the same conclusion. Tarmogoyf was in over half of the Top 8 decks. The new centrality of Tarmogoyf gave an edge to the creature decks that were build around Tarmogoyf.

Gush decks, particularly Gro decks, were still very good, but the slower format lent itself to predators coming at you from the Aggro side of the equation rather than the combo side. This made for a slower format. Jamison easily waltzed his way through Aggro, Workshop Aggro, Control, and Aggro-Control matchups. Notice that 6 of the 8 decks in the top 8 are heavy creature decks.

Another important change that contributed to this metagame was errata on Phyrexian Dreadnought. With the printing of Tenth Edition, Wizards continued with its plan to remove power errata. Phyrexian Dreadnought was the next card to see major revisions.
Mark Gottlieb explained the change here.

Now, Phyrexian Dreadnought's "comes into play" trigger can be Stifled.

Tommy Kolowith and team ICBM used this new errata and Thoughtseize from Lorywn to upgrade and improve a deck that had performed so well last year: the Sullivan Solution. With these upgrades, Tommy re-christened the deck "Deez Naughts."

He also uses Trinket Mage to find the Phyrexian Dreadnought and a full complement of Stifles as both offensive and defensive weapons. Trinket Mage in hand plus Stifle will likely result in a giant 12/12 trampler coming your way!

Since the Thorn of Amethyst metagame appeared more theoretical than realized, many players decided to exploit this discrepancy, and audibled to storm combo for the second day's tournament, hosted by Mystic Gaming.

100 players returned for the Sunday event and were not disappointed. The Top 8 that emerged was as unexpected as the one the day before.

After seven rounds of Swiss, a monstrous mono-brown Mishra's Workshopartifact deck built around Metalworker rampaged its way through a combo- and aggro-infested Top 8 to take home the top prize. This was the first major tournament victory on U.S. soil for a Mishra's Workshop deck since Roland Chang won the Vintage Championship in 2005.

Here's what won:

Jerret did everything right. He knew that Thorn of Amethyst was a lost cause in this aggro-infested metagame. He piled on the most efficient and important creatures in Triskelion and Duplicant along with Karn, Silver Golem. He was sure to run Tangle Wires. His sideboard was full of critical answers. And perhaps most importantly, compared to other Workshop decks his deck made full use and abuse of Chalice of the Void. He could drop Chalice for one at will and ruin the best-laid plans of his opponents.

The Top 8 is notable for the metagame shift to combo in the wake of the aggro beatdown of the day before, and for the virtual absence of Gush decks. Take a look.

Owen Turtenwald's deck is a real stunner. He fused Pact of Negations into a control shell enabled by the use of Platinum Angel. Nick Calcoteria's deck opens up all kinds of questions about the place of Gaddock Teeg in Vintage.

And just as important, Ponder and Thoughtseize have dramatically improved the Storm Combo archetype by adding greater consistency and threat density. Paul Mastriano and Lou Christopher made the Top 8 with the new Super Long.

How these trends will play out next year, it is too early to tell. One thing is certain: change is brewing. While Gush is clearly a top performer, Lorywn has thrown a wrench into the mix and opened up new avenues for development. Vintage is diverse, fun, and ever-changing. Isn't that how it should be?

Vintage on the Magic Invitational

The return of the offline Invitational was a special moment for Vintage. Once again, Vintage would return to the limelight as part of a menagerie of extreme formats. After three skirmishes, the only player to go 3-0 in the Vintage portion of the Invitational was Craig Jones with Manaless Ichorid!

We've traced the history of Manaless Ichorid this year. Perhaps it is fitting that Ichorid finally got its due somewhere. We've seen that, despite being broken, Ichorid, although not without Top 8s to its name, has not performed as well as expected because going through seven or eight rounds of Swiss and winning through the hate for all but one round is virtually impossible. But Ichorid also struggles because once it is in the Top 8, it has to face the most experienced players who are least likely to lose to it. Although it was a great thing to have Vintage spotlighted on the Magic Invitational, I think this just goes to show that three rounds of Vintage doesn't tell you all that much about Vintage under tournament conditions.

Remember, the turn-one kill only won him half the match.
And while there is a ton of great coverage of Vintage on the Invitational (I urge you to check it out, many people will probably remember Vintage for Game 1 of the Finals match between Tiago Chan and Rich Hoaen for the fact Tiago won the roll and had a turn one kill with Flash, Island, Mox Emerald, and Protean Hulk.

But what people should never forget is that Tiago won the match by hardcasting Protean Hulk through Thorn of Amethyst in Game 2 to beat Rich down for five turns before Rich ran out of blockers and finally succumbed to the blistering green giant.

And that is, perhaps, the perfect encapsulation of Vintage. It's totally broken but totally fair at the same time. While many games in Vintage will be blowouts, and in fact, most matches need one-sided games or else they'd go to time, Vintage matches are decided by play skill and deck choice. Rich chose to play a deck that has a weak Flash matchup to take advantage of the Gro-a-Tog metagame he expected to face. And even after piling on the hate, he kept in Sundering Titan post-board. He knew the risks. He could have had something more useful in hand (if his sideboard even gave him something more useful). But he thought that by attacking Tiago's Flash plan he would seal up the game, not fully accounting for the fact that Tiago could go into beatdown mode, either with Hulk or just with Slivers through multiple Sphere of Resistance effects. If Tiago had just hardcast several Slivers, the result could have been the same, despite Rich's Goblin Welders as blockers. Imagine if Tiago had hardcast a Tarmogoyf. All of Rich's Spheres and Leyline of the Void and Wastelands would have been for naught. Rich would have been skewered many turns earlier.

In spite of the zaniness and crazy games, Vintage is an important part of Magic's very fabric. It integrates the past, present, and future. It reminds us where we've been and shows us where we are going. I hope that Vintage continues to be a part of the Magic Invitational. It was my greatest magical honor to be a part of it this year.

Closing Thoughts – 2007 as Sequel

2007 was really a sequel. But it was two different sequels, separated by a tumultuous changing of the guard on the restricted list.

2007 was 2006 Part Two and 2003 Redux.

The first half of 2007 was really the finale to 2006. It was the culmination of all of the processes and metagame trends extant in 2006. It marked the final hybridization of Gifts and Pitch Long lists into several distinct forms, with one, Ritual Gifts, winning the last major tournament that Gifts was legal as a four-of. Although these Yawgmoth's Will tutor decks were being challenged by new printings in Future Sight, that metagame never had a chance to play out.

The restriction of Gifts and simultaneous unrestriction of Gush produced a huge metagame convulsion. Not only was there a giant metagame void to fill, but suddenly the repulsive and magnetic forces of the metagame were time warped from 2003. Ironically, the printing of Lorwyn merely accentuated these changes rather than altering them. Gro and Workshops are the top decks in Vintage right now. We have come a long way from the blue-black combo headiness of 2006. Green cards and artifacts are major players in this metagame, and will no doubt continue to be as we move into the great beyond of 2008.

Please join me, won't you?

Stephen Menendian

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