[Free Article] The Evolving 2018 vintage metagame


This is a comprehensive look at the evolution and direction of the vintage meta-game so far this year. I have every major deck featured, including how it’s done so far this year and where it is currently. I also offer some predictions for the rest of the year.

I'm so curious to see how many people show up with Survival decks at Vintage Champs ... My prediction is that there will be fewer than there are online, but enough to measure, and more than we've ever had at a North American Champs before.

It really depends on how Survival does in the Vintage Challenges over the next two months. If it does well or well enough, that could buoy it into non-trivial numbers. If it wins a few more challenges, then it could top off at 4-5% or even a little higher.

One of the problems with the deck is that it requires Bazaars, which puts it in competition with Dredge players who also need 4 Bazaars. That requisite puts a ceiling on the % of Survival in the room. Some versions of the Lands deck suffer from the same problem.

I've faced it in a League match, but the player didn't really seem to know what he or she was doing, so there may be a high attrition rate for a deck like this, as players test it, and the move on.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen yeah, Survival is not an easy deck to play optimally. I try to watch whenever anyone plays it since it’s kind of my baby and even strong vintage players have some trouble figuring out what to be doing in any given moment.

@smmenen I believe the deck is low floor + high ceiling and that there are not too many competent pilots yet. We will see who puts in the reps before champs. Online the best pilot Ive played so far is definitely Hitogoroshi80.

@wfain I'm even a player who's good at playing this sort of goofy, fishy deck (see: Stoneblade at champs last year!), and it's hard to get Survival right. It's relatively easy to actually execute Survival, but the decision points between Bazaar and Survival are not easy to get right. (aside: I'm 99% sure the Rich+Me stream was a stronger player in absolute than a very, very high percentage of Vintage. We made mistakes in combat math, though fewer in execution).

@Smmenen I can say that it's the most absurdly hard deck to build in paper I've ever seen. I was nearing 15 proxies for a mox event I played this at...and this is with real power, and real bazaars. 4x Survival? 4x Vengevine? 4x Noble Hierarch? That's a solid 1k of cards that don't really see play in any other Vintage deck at all!

@neo_altoid yeah, I watched you guys play it. I don’t remember exactly what they were anymore but there were a few points where I felt you guys were missing something or took a wrong mulligan decision or something. I do remember you sideboarded way differently than I do (for example I always leave a way to blow up Cage just in case I have Survival set up to win but Cage is the only thing in the way). No matter how good the deck is, I think @Smmenen is correct- it won’t break 4-5% because it costs like $30k+ irl being fully powered with 4 Bazaar and all those expensive 4 ofs on top of that.

Minor update to my article:

In September, the Top 8 challenge breakdown was:

30% Shops
25% PO
18% TX
10% Oath
8% Dredge
5% BUG/r
5% Other

That leads to an overall Q3 average of:

29% Shops
19% PO
19% TX
4% Oath
8% Dredge
5% BUG/r
3% DPS
4% White Eldrazi
3% Survival

I look forward to seeing the final results for Q4.

Shops are still the best deck by a sizable margin. My guess is that after the Vintage Championship at NA EW, Shops will decline again. But I think we are going to see another Top 8 with 3-4 Shop decks.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen I have started to play leagues again but I hate that the challenges are our major measurement. I have 2 kids and one on the way. There is no way my wife is going to let me sit in front of a computer for 7hrs to play magic on a Saturday. And to honest, if I'm going to play for 7hrs I want to leave the house.

last edited by moorebrother1

Why do you hate that challenges are a measurement? Because you don't play in them isnt a good reason. I don't play in them either, but I'm glad they are there. Because I will probably play in a few a year (although I haven't this year).

That's like saying I hate that german tournaments defined the 2002 Type 1 metagame. Just because we don't play in them don't mean they are bad.

Anyway, I thought folks would be glad I posted the September and Q3 data.

@smmenen Hey now, I seem to recall seeing you in some standings at a Vintage Challenge. 😋

@oestrus said in [Free Article] The Evolving 2018 vintage metagame:

@smmenen Hey now, I seem to recall seeing you in some standings at a Vintage Challenge. 😋

My bad I played in 2 this year: both in May, finishing 9th on May 26th. Prior to those I played in June 2017 last. 🙂

I would play so much Vintage if only I could. I just don't have the money to spend to get into mtgo. Whenever I hear people complaining about having to wait 10 minutes for a game I kind of think "man, I wish I had these problems", it's not like you have to stare at the window for the whole time, just do some work or other leasury things while waiting. But I guess that is kind of an outsiders perspective. The metagame atually seems very interesting to me. Most currently powerful deck have a very solid core, that allows for brewing around.
If you stay with the PO core you can play it from hard combo over kind of midrangy all the way to very controlling.
Same goes for Xerox. The core of the deck allows you to go for a very controlling deck with only JTMS and a mentor as your win con, over playing more snaps, pyros and even going very aggressive with delver if you want to.
Dredge has a ton of very flexible cards that all get supported by the very powerful and tight core.
Oath allows for multiple strategies, however it seems like the core takes slightly more cards and most options you can take revolve around what oath targets to run.

These are just some of the top decks, and these are just the most popular options. If you run an established archetype defined by a incredibly powerful core, it often allows for a lot of different cards and ways to utilize it.
Maybe my lack of playing on mtgo kind of clouds my perspective, since a lot of people are complaining that the metagame seems stale to them as if they would always play against the same 4 75s over and over again. That is not my experience at all.

Edit: iam sorry for the rambling, it's kind of late and iam tired.

last edited by Aelien

@smmenen Thank you for providing detailed analysis of the meta-game. I do appreciate your effort to add numbers and context to the meta-game.

My complaint has never been that I do not play so it does not matter. My issue is that as local paper events dwindle and have a difficult time getting more that 16 or so players to attend these Challenges are playing an outsized role in how we view the format.

This causes concern on several levels because so many Vintage players are not on MTGO and only play at local tournaments.

I know that MTGO opens up Vintage to many more players and several players are adding value to the format there. I get very concerned that this "megaphone" on MTGO crowds out local innovation and makes local events even smaller since it is so hard to get notice for any innovation there.

last edited by moorebrother1

At this point, a majority of Vintage is played online. I imagine that trend will continue due to flexibility in playing times and the lower entry price. So I'm not sure how it has an outsized role in how we view the format? It basically is the format. Just like Paper Vintage in the North East used to be the premier place to play (and Vintage everywhere else just followed suite).

@moorebrother1 said in [Free Article] The Evolving 2018 vintage metagame:

makes local events even smaller since it is so hard to get notice for any innovation there.

I'm responding to moorebrother but there's a LOT of people this response is directed at.

Nobody ever notices innovation. This is true universally, about plenty of non-magic things, but I'll limit the scope to vintage.

Decks don't just get discovered because they're good. People have been making super interesting decks forever, before or after MTGO. I know they don't reach a large audience because tournament results are readily available and people constantly ask "where are the innovated decks?"

You don't hear about players (or their decks) when they win a lot of vintage matches.

You hear about them when they talk a lot.

I know this, because people know who I am.

The barrier is so low for vintage content, write a decent primer and people will ask you questions about the deck for years, whether or not you've ever won a match with the deck, or even played a game with it. People care about MTGO results because people like Stephen analyze it and people like Rich and Matt stream it. If someone wrote an compelling writeup of their small weekly event, people would care about that, too. The writing/content quality is more important than the strategy quality.

I may be biased.

@brass-man Thanks for that, I am noticing that dynamic with my last post about Blue Moon. I love that deck and the new set really gave it new life. I may do primers on some of my other pet decks and see if anything happens.

@brass-man @moorebrother1

This is absolutely true. I experienced this as well. I never won a major event with the Academy combo deck I built almost 4 years ago, but it reached plenty of people (I hope!) and to this day I still get questions about it here and there.

Innovation isn't that difficult, take any deck concept that has been tried before in any format or one that you imagine up (within reason of course, it still needs to be "good") and build a shell around it, play a bunch, tweak it, and you're done. Further tweaks will happen if you play the deck across multiple events, but you have the rough draft ready already. A lot of things can be carried by the raw power of the restricted list and if you're not looking to break the format open, there is a lot of brewing space.

You know why you chose specific cards for your decklist in your head, but others who look at it do not. Only by explaining your card choices in a well-written way will make people curious about the deck, and probably give it a try. You could even give a brief timeline about the evolution of the deck or something like that. Even if nobody is interested in trying it, people like Vintage content and will read it!

I don't know about decks that win random tournaments because I hardly have the time to look up all results that ever get posted. Heck, I could hardly look at all the results of MODO even, unless I really wanted to. However, I do enjoy reading content and if a deck is featured there, it's a lot more likely I'll read about it there.

last edited by Hrishi

@brass-man @moorebrother1 @Hrishi

As I'm now taking over the Vintage 101 stuff on MTGGoldfish, I'd love to honestly see all sorts of spicy stuff if you guys wanna send me stuff to talk about. Honestly that goes for anyone. If you have local events or strange brews or anything fun, I'd like to see it, because it will make for awesome and fun articles then just rehashing the same MTGO results. Please reach out and let me know. 🙂

@volrathxp Just wanted to say, that i really enjoyed the article and iam glad the series is back. You manged to give a nice format overview without just highlighting the usual builds.

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