Dark Triad: A deck analysis and tournament report

Dark Triad

A vintage deck by Jeremiah Goertz (Dr. J)


Deck Analysis and Tournament Report


As soon as I read the Dominaria spoilers, I was in love. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was a planeswalker tailor-made for the style of pure control, pioneered by Weissman's The Deck in the 90's, which had become almost completely absent in Vintage. Combining card drawing, the ability to keep UU always available, pseudo-removal, and a powerful ultimate, Teferi excels in grinding out incremental advantage while keeping a tight reign on your opponent's ability to do anything meaningful. His 5 CMC was somewhat of a concern, however; Jace, TMS is a similar package for one less mana. However, the option to have 2 card-drawing planeswalkers in play simultaneously was another reason I wanted to try him in tandem to Jace. Here's the list I came up with:

Dark Triad


3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
1 Marsh Flats

3 Underground Sea
3 Tundra
1 Island
1 Swamp
1 Plains

1 LoA
1 Strip Mine

1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus


1 Ancestral Recall
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Time Walk
1 Braingeyser
1 Brainstorm
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Dig Through Time
1 Ponder
4 Preordain

4 Force of Will
3 Mental Misstep
3 Mana Drain
3 Mindbreak Trap


1 Moat
1 Humility
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Serenity
1 Search for Azcanta

Planeswalkers (THE TRIAD)

1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Kaya, Ghost Assassin
1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria


1 Tormod's Crypt
2 Containment Priest
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Serenity
2 Fragmentize
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Humility
1 Energy Field
2 Pithing Needle

A few words about the reasoning behind my card choices.


The Ghost Assassin was chosen because I believed she would dominate the blue mirror. Drawing a card while knocking one out of opp's hand seemed really strong. She is also a finisher, albeit a shitty one, but being a control deck, our space for finishers is limited. Immune to REB's.

Braingeyser, no Treasure Cruise

I wanted a legitimate Drain sink, and playing Yawg's will meant delve cards were less attractive. Since Dig is an instant I chose to keep it over Cruise. I also needed a finisher for the games that go long (this actually became relevant in the tournament).

3 Mindbreak Trap

It seems several current decks are trying to poop out their hand ASAP. It also makes for great plays whereby you "bait" (more often, "force to respond") your opponent with instants in response to their spell.


Theoretically, this was supposed to murder Stax and give you an out against Oath. The reality seemed different.

Grafdigger's Cage

Maindecking this bad boy made sense when considering it has a meaningful impact on at least three major archetypes. Dredge and Oath require no further comment. Shutting down Snapcaster is certainly relevant against Blue. The fact it shuts down your own Yawg's Will makes it somewhat situational, so you won't want to jam it down heedlessly.

Gifts Ungiven

No combo here per se, just an instant-speed option for a strong value play.

Yawg's Will, no Snapcaster

Snapcaster can be great, but I like Will better because you don't need Ancestral in your 'yard for Yawg's to be really strong. I'm not running red, so flashing back Bolts isn't an option.


Holy god, this card is good. The only reason I mention this is I've seen some blue lists running 3. I would not run less than 4, as it allows you to keep otherwise mulligan-worthy hands. Remember kids, avoiding mulligans is virtual card advantage. I did not mulligan all day (although I paid for it once when it was a 0 mana + Tormod's hand vs. Dredge, which was a bad call).

The Tourney

Sunday morning 5:30 AM came, and I had probably gotten all of 3 hours sleep, if that. Nonetheless, I was making the 3.5 hr drive up to North St. Paul from Ames, Iowa. I hadn't played in a tournament in 2 years, and in a Vintage tournament in at least twice as long. I was feeling the need.

I got to the venue, Hi-Score Games, almost 2 hours early feeling surprisingly alert. I napped in the car for 45, then headed inside, where I met Tony, a store employee I had spoken to on the phone. He's a friendly guy and as the store was practically empty we slung Legacy for a bit. The regulars began trickling in and when noon came, we had 13 players ready to throw down for the glory, honor, and $200 cash.

As I was beginning to feel the effects of sleep deprivation, my recollection isn't full of details, but I believe it is pretty accurate.

Round 1: Nick (Dredge)

Game 1:

I'm on the draw and keep a solid but unspectacular hand, without knowing what Nick is playing. He open with Bazaar. Did I mention my hand contained Grafdigger's Cage? A lucksack win, but we all take 'em.

Game 2:

I keep a 0 mana hand with Tormod's Crypt and RIP. It manages to annoy Nick, but I can't find any mana before he makes a bajillion tokens and swarms me.

Game 3:

First turn land, mox, RIP. Then a Needle on Bazaar. Then a Containment Priest. Poor Nick was really hoping to be able to cast Serenity, but such was not to be.

Matches : 1-0
Games : 2-1

After the games we talk about beekeeping, living in the country, and self-sufficiency, which I totally dig. A cool guy.

Round 2: Peo (Dark Depths homebrew)

Game 1:

I don't know what Peo is playing, but it doesn't matter because I get a first turn Jace, T(MF)MS. Vintage things happen. It turns out he's playing Depths with blue for Ancestral and maybe Walk? He gets out Lilliana of the Veil, but Jace takes it.

Game 2:

On the first or second turn, Peo duresses away my Force, but I topdeck a Drain. He then tries for Necro... Fortune smiled on me. I get out Kaya, who is joined by Jace. Together they control Peo's handsize and mine. He threatens with a Dark Depths but I find a Strip Mine for it.

Matches : 2-0
Games : 4-1

Peo had an interesting deck, and his performance against me probably wasn't indicative of the overall matchup. His draws were suboptimal, or mine were above optimal by comparison.

Round 3: Alex (URw Snapcaster control)

Game 1:

Jeepers, this was drawn-out, back and forth struggle for control. I win a battle over Alex's Ancestral, using Mindbreak Trap as my final counter. He asks me which of his spells I'm targetting with the Mindbreak. For some reason I don't target the Ancestral. Alex then Snaps it back. D'oh! Eventually I somehow get Kaya into play, and she is joined by Teferi. Alex is attacking with Snappy into Teferi, but his +1 keeps him alive until I find the Moat. Alex concedes soon thereafter.

Game 2:

We don't have time to finish, unfortunately.

Matches : 3-0
Games : 5-1-1

Alex said this was his first Vintage tournament. He did really well, and I hope he returns next time Hi-Score runs Type 1.

Round 4: Bill (UW control)

I'm top seed at the only 3-0 going into the final Swiss round, so Bill and I try to figure out whether we can draw in, but apparently the math and tiebreakers are tricky, so we decide to play.

Games 1, 2 and 3: My memory is really blanking here. I believe Bill played Jace but no Teferi (boo), and I was able to get two of my PW's into play against his one Jace in Game 1. On his last turn of Game 1, he tries to do some stuff (memory fuzzy) but I do remember that I Drained both spells, which would have allowed me to Braingeyser him for the win on my turn. Not knowing this, he graciously conceded anyways, although if my opponent had been less sportsmanlike the Geyser would have been relevant. Game 2 Bill crushes me pretty quickly, if memory serves. We begin Game 3 with 4 minutes on the clock, and as two blue control decks are wont to do, we timed out. Bill kindly concedes to me instead of taking the draw, ensuring I get to top 4. You're a mensch dude, I appreciate it.

Matches (counting this as a draw) : 3-0-1
Games : 6-2-2

Top 4

Semi finals : Harrison (BUG land-d with Ramanups, Abrupt Decays, and Deathrites)

Game 1:

I win this one but don't remember how.

Game 2:

He gats my land like a real O.G. I concede when it's clear this game holds a landless future for me.

Game 3:

Harrison gets down a couple Deathrites early on and is eating my graveyard. He attempts to Ancestral while I have Misstep, Teferi, and FoW in hand. I Misstep, he Missteps back. I decide not to FoW, and preserve my Teferi. My turn I land him, and soon follow him with a Jace, which forces Harrison to redirect the attentions of his Deathrites towards the dynamic duo. Teferi's +1 keeps him alive while I draw cards, and at the last possible moment I bounce 1 Deathrite with Jace and "remove" the other with Teferi. My hymn knocks one of the them out of Harrison's hand. I get a Moat and Kaya joins the other superheros (THE TRIAD achievement unlocked) and eats Harrison's life total.

We had some good games, I hope to play again!

Finals : Kirby (Workshop aggro)

Game 1:

I land the Moat, but Kirby gets a Ballista in play with his Ravager, so I decide to reset the board with Serenity. Not a super strong play to kill my own Moat, but it seemed forced. I die anyways.

Game 2:

Oh runzta crunchta crunchy artifact dudes pound my head in.

Despite the violence involved, Kirby was a fun opponent. Congrats! I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!

Afterthoughts and Assessment


I liked Teferi. He seemed solid, and besides the card-drawing, he felt like he "filled in the cracks" as quasi-removal for anything problematic that got through. There were several times I got two planeswalkers into play, which wouldn't have been possible if I only ran Jace. Even against an opponent's Jace (which happened at least once or twice), two against one isn't a fair fight.


Against the old style prison Workshop decks, this was gold. Agains the newer aggro style, it's total ass. Would not run again, main or sideboard. Would replace with Energy Flux.


This bad bitch owns blue. There were several times in the mid-early game when my opponent and I had around 3-4 cards in hand, and I got her into play (can't be red blasted!). She quickly turned the tide irreversably in my favor.


Kind of klunky, but I think necessary for another finisher. The fact that we can run Drains again makes it saucy.

Yawg's Will

'Nuff said.

Gifts Ungiven

Was Force-food all day. I think I cast it maybe once. Not really good enough in this deck, and kind of situational.

Mindbreak Trap

Oh hell yes. 3 is the right number for sure. It allows you to beat Flusterstorm in the counterwar, can spank an unsuspecting player trying to jump out of the gate. Exiles the Ancestral so Snapcaster can't get it back (heh). I never felt like I had too many.


This deck always felt smooth to operate and rarely was I unable to find a card I needed in time. THE TRIAD was strong against most decks I faced. Running black instead of straight U/W allowed for consistency and flexibility. Seems weak to Shops main; as noted, Gifts and Serenity underperformed and I would replace them with 2x Energy Flux maindeck. I would further replace the Serenity and Energy Field in the sideboard with 2x Energy Flux to completely shore up the Paradoxical and Shops matchups.


"Well chief, all I know is the poor guy was found buried under a mountain of card advantage."

"I read the report, McDaniels. Sounds like another victim of... THE DARK TRIAD."

Amazing report. I am a huge fan of The Deck and all it's iterations, and I have to say I love this list. The miser Hymn in the sideboard has me beffuddled tho. Why? When or what did you side it in for and how often was it relevant? Would a duress or thoughtseize have been better (was the BB ever an issue vs 1 black?)?

Keep up the work, hope to hear more.

Come on man, even FoF is better than Braingeyser. You can safelly take out Gifts and Brain for Cruise/FoF/Snapcaster. Enlightened Tutor seems not that great too. Kaya is juicy though.

@serracollector Thanks for the kind words! The random Hymn is for blue. You use it to break open a stalemate with a 2-for-1 discard that can't be Misstepped or Pyro'd.

@serracollector Oh, to answer your other questions: You don't necessarily want to cast the Hymn early, so double black isn't an issue. I drew it once (semi-finals).

@fsecco Hey duderino. The deck's mini enchantment toolbox is my justification for the E. Tutor. I tutored up Moat at least twice when it mattered.

I like the Geyser mostly because it's a finisher that's also a card drawer. As I noted, this was relevant in one of my games.

@dr-j Don't get me wrong, I read the report and understand your reasoning. The deck seems to play great. I just think these cards can be very bad in a High % of times. Braingeyser specially. You don't need this kind of finisher though because you can either Snap Ancestral for the kill or use Teferi so you don't die to decking.

@fsecco @Dr-J I was curious about this one too. Is the Geezer there to target opponent or something? If not, isn't Cruise just as good a drain sink as Geezer and likely better? If we drain something at 4, than Geezer gets us 4 cards for UU, where Cruise gets us 3 for what will almost certainly be U and three cards out of the yard (one card is already Mana Drain). It's not until we are draining things at the 5, 6, 7 level that this is much better. Even then, Cruise offers lines to float mana into what we are drawing. And aren't the instances of just wanting to play Cruise pre-drain outweighing the Drain into big Geezers anyway? I mean, don't get me wrong. I like big Geezers, and I cannot lie. I but it just feels like Cruise has more impact more often.

@topical_island said in Dark Triad: A deck analysis and tournament report:

@fsecco @Dr-J I was curious about this one too. Is the Geezer there to target opponent or something?

Yes, as I've stated at least thrice now, one of the main reasons for playing Geyser is because you can Geyser the opp FTW. 🙂

4th round, late game in one turn I drained something like a Search for Azcanta and FoW, netting 7 mana, which would have allowed me to finish my opp on the spot with a ~20 pt Braingeyser. That's something the other suggestions wouldn't have allowed.

@dr-j We know that (I read the report). I'm just arguing that's a win-more (you didn't even need it to actually win that game) and a bad card in a lot of spots - meaning every spot where it's not coupled with a Drain.

last edited by fsecco

@fsecco You can't rely on your opponent's concession.

@dr-j You didn't need it because you were already way ahead and your opponent noticed and conceded. You'd win that game anyway, with or without Geyser, that's the point. Anyway, congrats on the result. 😉

@fsecco Well, okay, theoretically I would have won that game. It's a time management issue. If it was the third game with little time on the clock in that gamestate, without the Geyser my opponent could have chosen to be a butthead and time us out. 🙂

Jace and Kaya are slow as shit, so there are times you want something faster. Yes, Geyser is clunky and without the option to finish I definitely wouldn't run it. If you can think of another finisher that prevents timeouts while offering decent utility, please suggest it.

@dr-j Could a one-of Consecrated Sphinx be an alternative to the Geyser? Closes the game quickly, is a decent way to spend Drain mana, and makes it hard for your opponent to claw back into the game if you're ahead on cards.

last edited by revengeanceful

Braingeyser could be Mindtwist, that usually wins games after a Mana Drain 😄

@revengeanceful I would really like this idea but for the Humility. If I ever cut that I would probably incorporate the Sphinx in the list, it's a good suggestion otherwise.

@dr-j Fair enough. How has Humility been for you, in this event and otherwise?

last edited by revengeanceful

@revengeanceful The Humility was never a factor in any of my games that I remember, although it certainly could have been. E.g., shutting down Depths if I hadn't gotten the Strip Mine, shutting down Snapcasters. It's there for those types of things, as well as Oath, Ballistas, and random utility creatures.

I did no play testing except for goldfishes, so can't comment otherwise.

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