Back in the summer of 2011, the Forino brothers and I were searching for a deck for Vintage Champs. Espresso Stax (henceforth Espresso) had dominated the metagame in the heart of American Vintage for a year, but blue pilots had found a new counter to the MUD king in East Coast Wins (henceforth E.C.W.).
E.C.W. was a Gush based control deck that featured ample maindeck artifact destruction (usually upwards of three maindeck Ancient Grudges), enough copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to reliably draw (and land) one each game, and a fundamental understanding of what Espresso was. "Just stop their threats" Shawn had said. While Espresso featured Chalices, Spheres, Thorns, Crucibles, and other forms of disruption, the only win conditions were Lodestone Golems, Karn, Silver Golems, and a pair of Duplicants. If you stopped them, if you countered their creatures, they couldn't actually kill you.
E.C.W. became a major player in the NY/NJ/PA corridor, and Espresso took a beating, before it was time to go back to the drawing board. With every move, there is a response, and there would be a response here. But to what?
We first started playing around with 5C Stax. 5C hadn't been dead that long, and we wanted to see if it was possible to revive the deck, focusing on the powerful elements of it, and cutting away everything else. Before we got too far along with that, we came to the realization that the deck was just too slow to compete in a modern metagame; the colored mana requirements of the deck were so onerous that they demanded a sacrifice of your Ancient Tombs. Tomb had been a somewhat marginal card in past iterations of Shop decks, but this was mostly a statement about the cards that MUD had available to it. The printings of Thorn of Amethyst and Lodestone Golem, the move of Chalice of the Void from the sideboard to the maindeck, these all put an onus on the pilot to be able to more reliably produce an explosive start with their mana. Going back to a world of City of Brass and Gemstone Mine felt like a quaint trip to the past, where the world wasn't as harsh, or dangerous. It wasn't long before the 5C experiment was discarded.
One of Forino's greatest lessons was to create references. Some parts of a deck may work. Others may not. Know the difference, and don't be afraid to copy and paste the parts of decks that do work together. See where it takes you, and what you learn.
What we learned was that Goblin Welder and Tinker were still powerful effects. Even in the age of Misstep, a resolved Welder could throw wrenches in the best laid plans. And Tinker, specifically used to find Sundering Titan, was more powerful than ever before; E.C.W. was a four color deck after all.
We were coming up on the hard deadline to have something built, but the deck wasn't quite there yet. We knew it too. We flew out to Indiana that year, not entirely sure of ourselves. We arrived at Champs with a U/R Shop deck that featured Shivan Reefs, Tinker, Sundering Titan, Welders, and a MUD core. The only colored cards in the maindeck were Ancestral Recall, Tinker, and four Goblin Welders.
The day didn't start, or end, well for any of us. At 3-1, I was the last 'live' player in the event of the three of us. I had my first ever match against Rich Shay, and mulligans to five, and then four, were enough to end my day. With my day ended, we were done.
The Vintage 'year' mostly ends with the crowning of a champion. While there are events that run after Champs, you're going to be playing in the metagame that Champs defined until the calendar moves to the next year. 2011, however, was different. We didn't have our deck in time, and, unfortunately, Champs proved a testing ground instead of a battle for a championship. I was driving to New Jersey the day before the 2011 Summer Open, held by Nick Coss of Top Deck Games, when I called Forino. We talked for a bit, and discussed some changes. The deck wasn't brown enough. It needed Ancient Tombs, it needed some of the MUD power plays. Tinker was powerful, but it wasn't worth the sacrifices that it demanded. Blue was cut from the deck, and MUD Marinara was born:
4 Goblin Welder
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
2 Expedition Map
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
2 Sphere of Resistance
4 Thorn of Amethyst
3 Crucible of Worlds
4 Tangle Wire
4 Lodestone Golem
3 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Barbarian Ring
1 Bazaar of Baghdad
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
3 Ancient Tomb
4 Mishra’s Workshop
2 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Mental Misstep
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Bojuka Bog
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
E.C.W. had a brutally difficult time with Goblin Welder. The ability to recur any of your threats taxed their removal beyond its efficacy. Additionally, as we hadn't yet moved to the tempo meta that we began shifting towards, cards like Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares did not see the kind of frequency in maindeck play that we now take for granted. Welder was safe, once he hit.
The 2011 Summer Open was seven rounds. Over the course of seven rounds, I played one round of Dredge, and six rounds of Gush. It was an exorcism of every Gush demon that I had ever had cross my path that day. I lost a close round to Dredge, and then proceeded to crush one Gush deck after another, running the tally up to 5-0 before round seven pairings were announced. My breakers weren't great, and I'd have to play in order to assure myself a place in the top eight. Josh Potucek sat down across from me, I apologized for not being able to draw, and then ran the record up to 6-0 against Gush on the day.
We had found our Champs deck a week too late.
MUD Marinara persisted for a few years. From 2011-2013, it remained an option. Cavern of Souls was a further boost to the deck, in ensuring un-counterable Welders, Lodestones, Duplicants, et al. But the deck's nemesis, Oath of Druids, became more and more powerful as the years passed, and eventually a combination of Lightning Bolts and absurd green enchantments put the deck away.
I sold nearly all my cards last summer, though I kept a German foil signed playset of Goblin Welders. I hope to one day be able to use them again.
Colored Shop decks haven't been particularly good for about five years. In order for a colored Shop deck to be good, what you're sacrificing (the blunt force of modern MUD, the speed of Ancient Tomb (in all likelihood)) must be worth what you gain. Because your deck is split between mana, threats, and disruption, if you're losing on your mana, you had better be gaining more from either your disruption or your threats to more than adequately account for the discrepancy.
This is usually profoundly difficult, as Shop decks, more than many other decks, must be built to be harmonious. Drawing cards like Tinker when your mana consists of four Mishra's Workshops, and five lands that are really effects more often than they're lands (Wastelands and Strip Mine), is counter-productive, and frustrating.
While, to my quick glance, it seems like Lightning Bolt is less popular than it was a couple of years ago, the preponderance of Oath of Druids in the local metagame (perhaps this isn't the case on MODO, or nationally), would be of grave concern. While Shop decks are generally disadvantaged to Oath of Druids decks (especially now, when all Shop decks seem to be Aggro decks), colored Shop decks are significantly more disadvantaged. Welder would thrive in a metagame where his ability to recur would naturally counter the amount of destruction decks pack. Welder cannot, however, live in a metagame where you can reasonably expect to play Oath of Druids once or twice in a six or seven round event.
After Thorn was restricted, I called Forino. I hadn't played in about six months at that point, but I wanted to talk to him about a white hate bears deck. There are many, many powerful effects available to that deck now. They are all unrestricted. You would have to trade your explosive starts for consistent, albeit smaller, plays. I sincerely think it's the right move right now. You have more than adequate answers to the hated Oath decks, and you have a wealth of options for just about everything else in the field. You can afford to run maindeck cards like Containment Priest, which present Dredge and Oath with nightmares, and you can do it all while you render their Ancient Grudges and myriad other artifact removal spells worthless.
A very long two cents, I suppose.