I wanted to post a list I've been having fun with in the practice rooms (less so in the leagues, where I'm getting stomped), in part because I think there are a few similarly minded plucky underdogs on here who occassionally like to turn dorks sideways, and I suppose in part also as a lament for where fish decks are in the format these days. My goal is not present you with a format-breaking list with which to take down the next Vintage challenge, but to show you something I've been having completely subjective fun times with, in case you may have some wisdom to share on building decks like this in the format - however much of a folly that at times feels like.
So: I've barely played Magic over the last 9 months or so, let alone Vintage. I just can't really get excited about the game or the format at the moment. When I have played Vintage though, I've been playing a bit of RUG Cascade. In doing so, I discovered how much fun it was casting Bloodbraid Elf, a card Modern players are currently having a blast with, too. I decided to try and knock together a Vintage Jund deck, as best I could, to keep Bloodbraiding for fun and profit. After many thrashings, here's where I'm at.
As far as I can tell, the number one problem to try and solve when building decks like this is, how do you fight both decks that play on the stack and decks that flood the board. And frankly, it's almost bloody impossible. Trying to get enough disruption in, whilst being able to deploy threats is a real challenge and it's possible that these days, we don't have the card pool for it in Jund (I think White/Thalia based decks, especially with Caverns probably have a better chance). Still, I've tried to pack in discard and modal spells (Command) to do what I can. Why play black at all then? Well, given how hard it is to have a very linear disruptive strategy (for example, as per the Null Rod decks of yore), I think there's virtue to playing silver bullets plus black tutors. In this case, I have the singleton Null Rod, and a card I've found critical if you want to even attempt to hang with blue, Chains of Mephistopheles. I was trying to jam Leovold in here orginally, but he's just too slow. You need a chance at getting down a first turn Chains to slow down cantrip and Paradoxical decks enough to apply pressure.
I've including a pair of Spirit Guides to help cast 2-drops early (and get to 4 quicker for Bloodbraid) - ultimately, I decided a 2/2 body was mostly a better 'bad' cascade than an off-colour mox.
I'm always trying out Kitesail Freebooter - a card that feels a little underpowered, but does give you the kind of valuable 2-for-1 the deck desperately needs. The card I haven't tried in this slot is the classic Jund staple Hymn to Tourach. Whilst I'm playing, I do generally hate seeing the opponent has cards in hand... but I struggle to believe Hymn is actually good. If you have thoughts on that, I would love to know!
Three-drop-wise: There's certainly some questionable choices here. I've liked the one-of Liliana as an out to Oath/Tinker targets and a helpful tool against control. Scab-clan Berserker has also generally impressed me. I love having another haste creature, and I love the slightly disruptive side to the card. I've been toying with the idea of playing a second, but I suspect having double Command is just about better. One of those commands though could be something else... Tried Ramunap Excavator, but never really drew it, so that's a bit inconclusive. I've wondered if something like Collective Brutality might be worth a shot, but it feels a little weak. Possibly a Young Pyromancer? Peezy is a card I've not yet tried to jam in here - but may be the only way you stand a chance at keeping up with opposing token-makers (though as we have to pay for our spells, it's probably a lost cause). What do you guys think? Is cramming Pyromancer in here somehow the way forwad (perhaps with some number of Cabal Therapies?).
Regarding paying mana for spells: It turns out, that in this format, it's a pretty catastrophic thing to do. For that reason, I'm playing the full four Bloodbraids. I keep going back and forth on this, having previously tried a Chandra and a Tasigur in place of Elf #4 and Kologhan's Command #2. I really wanted Chandra to work out, but basically, on turn four against a blue opponent, you won't resolve it. So I tend to think you have to turn to Bloodbraid, so you at least get something out of the exchange. I just wish the body was better. Get swole little elf!
On Goyfs: I quite like where this card is at the moment, or where big-butted creatures are generally. I wish it cantripped or something... but you can't have everything. But since the peak Eldrazi menace days, there are fewer Swords out there in the world, and Tarmo is sometimes just the dumb beater you need. In lieu of a better disruptive beater, he stays for now.
Mostly self-explanatory I think. I like Trap against combo, but also on the draw against anything from Shops to Oath... anything that risks barfing something unstoppable out before you. Fire Convenant could possibly be a different sweeper - Slice and Dice, Deluge, maybe even Simoon? Crypt and Spellbomb frustrate me slightly - I often find against Storm/Paradoxical, I wouldn't mind having both a Spellbomb and a Null Rod in after side, which is of course nonbo territory.
Some General Remarks
Boy -is it a tough time to be a Fish deck. Overall, the one-time pillar of Vintage has never-recovered from the printing of Delver and co - the cards that allowed URx to be the best Aggro-Control deck in the format, which unlike previous Blue decks, did not struggle against Null Rod and could even play the card itself. Without a consistently disruptive crutch like Rod, it feels like Fish - certainly any non-blue attempt at such a deck - is kind of dead in the water. Something like Jund will need some radical printings to really catch up - or perhaps another Blue apocalypse...but, it can still be fun to jam in the practice room, if you like a change of pace, if you like come-from-behind wins etc. It's unforgiving, but I've enjoyed playing a lot of cards that simply give me pleasure - Bloodbraid and its inherent variance to me is one of those cards - it just makes for exciting in-game moments.
I suspect if there is a Vintage aggroey deck out there, it either plays blue (like RUG Cascade) or White for Thalia. Thalia though comes with a whole bunch of deck building constraints that I personally haven't really thought about yet - is Junk for example just straight up better than Jund? Oscar Rubi from the LCV seems to consistently do well with it. We've also seen how central Thalia was to White Eldrazi. And she's the glue (along with Caverns) that makes Vintage Human decks tick... she's probably aggro's best chance in Vintage - and I will certainly be jamming Humans next time I fancy a change...
Still, for now, I'd quite like to make this Jund pile as good as it can be and would welcome any thoughts to that end. I'd also just love to hear generally from anyone else who wishes there was a little more variety to Vintage and more competitive ways to beat down with non-artifact. non-blue, non-zombie duders. What do you think? Is Thalia plus Caverns the only real option out there? Will Dampening Sphere change anything (I can imagine it as a one of in a deck with tutors for example)? Are any of the non-Human tribes being overlooked at the moment, or any color-combinations - RG beats was once a thing etc.
Beatdown players of the world unite!