Hey folks. So I've had a long standing affection with the card Doomsday as I'm sure most of the people feeling enticed enough by my title to click the post also have.
I had just managed to get the deck in paper and played it for one tournament when Gush and Probe were restricted. Go figure. Since that time I've mulled it over from time to time if there was a Doomsday deck still to be played in Vintage but have not had the time nor the belief, if I'm honest, to really pursue this.
However, having just been lured back to the Doomsday camp fire after having watched LSV and Gabby Spartz play a version of the deck in a Vintage league I decided to try it out again.
I would, however, like some theory crafting first.
It seems to me that there are two different approaches to build and play this deck. Both versions are somewhere on the scale of combo-control. The first being a more controlling version. This version plays fewer or no copies of Dark Ritual, no Necropotence, fewer than 4 copies of Doomsday. Instead it likely plays some more disruption/protection in the form of counterspells and discard although the differences might be more nuanced than that.
The second plays more aggressively as a combo deck. Likely plays upwards of 4 Dark Rituals. Likely plays Necropotence as a draw engine and a way to fuel a tendrils kill.
I think building either version I would lean towards having both Lab Man and Tendrils as win conditions. I also think - though this is just me hypothesizing - that the controlling version of the deck suffers more from losing 3x Gush. This is mainly from the perspective of: the later in the game you go off, the more likely you are to be able to cast several Gush in the same turn. So if the controlling deck aims to cast Doomsday on turn 4 it could cast Gush twice making things easier. A deck looking to have it's fundamental turn on turns 1-3 will likely be unable to cast more than 1 Gush anyway.
The Cost of Losing 3x Gush
LSV had replaced 3x Gush and 1x Probe (assuming the deck used to play 4x Gush and 2x Probe - I know this is debatable but that is how I played at least) by 3x Street Wraith and 1x Sensei's Divining Top. The difference in quality of cards in Gush vs Street Wraith is, at a surface level at least, fairly obvious. Having access to only 1 Gush will mostly hurt the deck in that it will a) be much rarer to have a naturally drawn Gush in hand as a way to draw into your Doomsday pile at 0CMC and b) it will be more difficult to kill with Tendrils through Yawgmoth's Will later in the game where having the ability to Gush 2 or 3 times on the same turn would normally be amazing if we're trying to build a lethal storm count, especially if we aren't playing the full set of Dark Rituals which I would argue go some way towards making a Tendrils kill more likely.
In terms of adressing point A I think Street Wraith can do an acceptable job of getting into the top card of the pile at 0 mana. As a way of looking at the positives first it is noticable that it dodges all countermagic and as such is superior to Gush/Probe etc in this regard if in no other. The main issue is it only draws 1 card. This 1 card will often have to be Gush if we have no more mana available and wish to win this turn. Casting Gush will then dig us 2 cards further in, leaving a library of 2 cards which lines up unfavorably with casting Ancestral Recall. If we have U floating or an untapped U-producing land we can have Ancestral Recall as the top card of the pile and winning from there by casting only 1 Gush should be fine. In fact I would say that the number of times where more than 1 Gush went into the actual Doomsday pile pre-restriction was not very many. In either case this is not to make an argument for whether or not Street Wraith is actually better than Gush, it clearly isn't, but rather my objective is to discuss whether the deck can still be good without Gush and here Street Wraith is a necessary consideration as a pseudo replacement.
Another option is to consider Sensei's Divining Top. Top synergizes very well with Doomsday in that it helps us filter our draws in the turns leading up to our combo as well as getting into the first card of the pile. The negatives include dying to Mental Misstep as well as being slow. This last point is a contentious one for some, but I would argue that Top get's better with more turns or perhaps said another way Top is relatively hard to get payoff from on turn 1 and perhaps turn 2. We don't want to play off-color moxen so the amount of times we are able to make a land drop, a mox and a top will be relatively few. Making ourselves dependant on Top also increases our vulnerability to Null Rod / Stony Silence. LSV played 1 top and I could see myself trying that out. Maybe 2.
In terms of point B I think having only 1 Gush doesn't need to impact the Tendrils plan very much. But I would personally lean towards playing Dark Rituals and Necropotence and having a stronger Yawgmoth's Will / Tendrils avenue to victory anyway. Without Fastbond I would say that it's debatable how much better having 4 Gush makes a Yawg Will turn ending with a Tendrils kill.
Questions Going Forward
Okay so this were some initial thoughts on the card choices I saw made by LSV. I would also like to discuss some other things.
Number of Doomsday: I think playing 4x Doomsday, regardless of how combo-centric or control-centric you are, is probably wrong. It is one of the poorer feelings playing the deck when you draw this card in multiples. And with the amount of tutors and cantrips at our disposal I have no issues going down to 3.
Dark Petition: Playing a more combo-centric version of the deck with 4x Dark Ritual and access to Necropotence makes me want to explore Dark Petition. I'm not sure if anyone has any experience with this card in a Doomsday Deck but I would love to hear them. Maybe just a single copy to act as a 2nd Demonic Tutor that can get Yawg Will and win with a lotus and a ritual and maybe 1 or 2 more spells. The BBB conveniently also casts Doomsday of course.
Other Cards? Does anyone have any other ideas or experiences with other cards?
Pros and Cons: Let's for arguments sake say that Doomsday is as viable today as it were pre-Gush restriction. Is it good enough in today's meta? Where does it excel? What are its stumbling blocks? I seem to remember that people would say that workshops is the worst matchup for the deck. I'd say, personally, that while Workshops is favored I feel a sideboard plan of islands and hurkyl's recalls works very nicely and I don't feel like the matchup is unbeatable or anything. In fact I think Eldrazi / White Taxes is/was much, much worse. Beating cavern into Thalia is really hard. But luckily that deck doesn't seem to see much play after the restriction of Thorn.
Any thoughts/ideas are most welcome