Eternal Weekend was an event I had been looking forward to all year. Obviously I had a Legacy Champion title to defend, but I would also be playing Vintage for the first time this year. All in the city of Philadelphia, which as far as I know consists of only a convention center with free WiFi and the best food options of any site in the country: Reading Terminal Market.
Much like last year, my goal for this tournament was simply to test for the upcoming Grand Prix. Considering I hadn't played a match of Legacy since the last Legacy Grand Prix almost a year ago, this was a much needed refresher.
Of course, most people were in a similar boat because Legacy has changed so much in the last month. Treasure Cruise lived up to the hype and more, and even beyond that, Khans of Tarkir had other playables.
I knew immediately that I wanted to play one of the blue delve spells, but I wasn't sure which. After some thought, I dismissed Set Adrift. After some more thought, I determined that Treasure Cruise bolstered the tempo section of the metagame a little too much to want to play Dig through Time. Obviously I love a combo deck, but Dig Through Time implies your combo deck is trying to be a little grindier and slog through interaction, which doesn't work against one mana 3/2s and Ancestral Recalls.
My immediate reaction was just to play Bob Huang's U/R Delver list or some tri-color derivative of it. Temur was straight out of the question as playing Tarmogoyf or Nimble Mongoose in a Treasure Cruise mirror seemed real loose. I worked on a Grixis list with Jarvis Yu for a long time, coming to a lot of important conclusions about what these decks wanted based on zero games of testing. In the end, I looked at what we had and realized I was just the U/R deck with Cabal Therapy main and Thoughtseize in the board, which seemed worse than just not dying to Wasteland and playing Flusterstorm against combo.
Back to the drawing board, and it's Friday night.
On the card ride down, I jumped from Elves to Death and Taxes a couple times, eventually settling on Elves on the basis of "When in doubt, default to combo" and "Ben Feingersh had a built 75 to hand me in the car that is three cards off what I want to play."
Then I started thinking about it. Quotes from multiple sources to follow:
"The U/R Delver matchup isn't as good for Elves as it looks on paper. They just Forked Bolt you and attack for three and draw a ton of cards and you die a decent amount of the time" - Ben Feingersh, who switched from his usual Elves to U/R Delver.
"Not playing Elves, U/R Delver is a rough matchup" - Jarvis Yu, who switched from his typical Elves to Grixis Delver featuring Fire Covenant.
"How do I find room for a third Rough//Tumble?" - Stu Somers, constructing a Temur Delver sideboard.
This sounded like I was walking into a world of no fun. Of course, the world of U/R Delver mirrors also sounded like a bunch of no fun, and in an event that in the big picture didn't matter I would rather 2-2 drop playing a deck I enjoy winning with than play miserable matches to a 6-3 finish, so Elves it was.
Until Taylor Pratt, another Elves player looking to not play the deck, asked what I thought about the Deathblade deck that Ben Glancy won last week's Open Series in Worcester with .
Well, those are all a bunch of nice cards. Seems reasonable.
"This card is actually just cheating."
"One mana is basically free. Two life is almost a payment. The real cost to you is a single card. In exchange, you get perfect information and force your opponent to mulligan in the worst possible way.
Thanks to whoever printed this the first time. Thanks again to whoever decided it should come back again. I basically owe my Magic playing career to you."
Guess I can't turn that one down. Plus this was a midrange deck that I don't think is trash, so based on past experiences, it has to be the best thing in the format.
The list I ended up settling on was:
I really wanted to fit a Notion Thief into the board because get you, but that was not a mature midrange player decision. Or maybe it was, I'm still figuring it out.
I was met with a prompt 0-2 exit from the tournament.
The first match was against Nic Fit, a deck basically positioned to crush midrange blue decks like Deathblade. You can likely find the video of me losing to Notion Thief, Frost Titan, and Consecrated Sphinx among other awesome cards. His Dig Through Times made things even more miserable, as he could bury me in card advantage and specifically threats.
I then played a match against Elves very poorly. To be honest I was mentally 100% out of it before the round started. I didn't like my deck, wasn't committed to winning with it, was running on back to back nights of under five hours of sleep (my functional minimum most of the time), and had no desire to win eight rounds in a row to finish an event likely after midnight and be utterly miserable for Vintage, the event I actually cared about.
So I didn't Supreme Verdict a full Elf board because I would be down cards in hand and wanted value. I died to the follow up Craterhoof Behemoth. I then boarded poorly, played game 3 too aggressively by trying to establish Umezawa's Jitte, and he had enough bounce effects to prevent that.
I dropped. I went through my Vintage deck build with my testing team. I ate at Reading Terminal Market (the technology there is matzah ball soup plus roast pork sandwich). I took a nap.
And I felt way better.
Deathblade was a test deck for the Grand Prix, and I was reminded of the same thing I've been reminded about time and time again in Legacy: do something proactive and broken or you will lose to people doing that exact thing in ways you weren't set up to beat.
I'm not remotely shocked that Kevin Jones crushed everyone with what appears to be the best tempo deck in the room. He is rapidly establishing himself as one of the really good players, especially with his excellent build of Standard Jeskai Aggro that was under ten cards off of perfect on actual day one of the format, and I expect more results out of him very soon. U/R Delver is still the deck to beat going into the upcoming Open Series events and Grand Prix New Jersey, and given the massive field expected at that event, it will likely be difficult for players to properly metagame against it.
Again, just do something that kills your opponent and can hang with the big players. Not a difficult concept.
Last year after winning Legacy Champs, I was PTQing on Sunday watching all my friends having a ton of fun playing Vintage and felt real dumb.
I was very fortunate to be in position where I could fix this and rapidly acquired a set of Power for myself.
While I was originally planning on playing at the local store's weekly infinite-proxy Vintage events over the course of the year to figure out what I should play, I was presented with a great opportunity to work with a group of people who wanted to take this event as seriously as I take pro events. I was happy to match their level of dedication. Danny Batterman of "greatly helped my team get Craig Wescoe a PT win" fame, reigning Vintage Champion Joel Lim, the Goblin Charbelcher himself and Michigan native Ben Perry, Kevin Long, Jen Wong, and I did a very good job of working through the format over the long testing span we had.
Some quick observations we had, a lot of which are stated in my article from June:
-Mishra's Workshop decks were very good, but the Smokestack lists fumbled on the draw against a lot of decks. Kuldotha Forgemaster was one of several powerful options to make up ground on the draw when your opponent could get out under your Sphere of Resistance effects.
-The traditional Big Blue decks were really bad. You didn't have a good mix of threats, counters, and mana to do something big consistently and back it up enough, and you definitely didn't have the card draw to reliably set up these things.
-Combo was real good because you played all the super powerful cards.
-Dredge was Dredge because Dredge Dredge Dredge Dredge. I wasn't going to do that to myself.
-Various creature-based attrition decks were also very good, namely U/W Restoration Angel/Mana Drain decks, as their cards were extremely synergistic and Sultai Fish decks because they were very dedicated to the trade cards until you are ahead a tick plan.
As a number of us were combo enthusiasts, we immediately gravitated towards "decks with Mind's Desire" and came up with a lot of good options.
Storm was very powerful but didn't support Force of Will, as your card count needed to be high in a given game to win, and your blue count was reduced to play Dark Ritual. Force of Will was one of the most important cards in broken decks, as the only way you reasonably lose to the Big Blue decks is they get lucky and out-broken you, which is what Force is way better than Duress at stopping.
Doomsday was also insanely good, but I didn't get to it until a week before Pro Tour testing started. It's definitely much easier in this format than in others (Legacy), but I needed more than five days of testing to figure it out. Apparently, it is also not great against Delver, which I will get to later.
That left Time Vault decks, which were pretty sweet. Danny had locked in on the general Draw 7 plus Time Vault strategy last year and was the main person putting in the work on the list. The kill condition was more Stax resilient, as it involved casting under four cards on the kill turn, you get to play Force of Will, and you still get to play Mind's Desire. You lose two of the three most broken cards in the format compared to Storm (Necropotence and Yawgmoth's Bargain as the other one-sided Draw 7s), but as a full deck you are much more functional.
Then a bunch things happened.
Dack Fayden was printed, and playing Stax became pretty miserable. People apparently figured out a few lists that were good against it, but they were trending towards the "bad on the draw side of things."
Then I had to disappear and test for the Pro Tour for over a month.
Then Treasure Cruise turned out to be a thing. Like a big thing that pushed Delver into a large metagame share.
Then we figured out Dig Through Time.
I talked about one-sided draw sevens. Dig Through Time can't be slammed on turn 1, but in the mid-game it falls into the exact same category at instant speed.
Is that real life?
The final list we played at the event, again as mostly designed by Danny:
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Memory Jar
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Brainstorm
- 2 Dig Through Time
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Gifts Ungiven
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 3 Mental Misstep
- 2 Misdirection
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mox Opal
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Mind's Desire
- 1 Ponder
- 2 Preordain
- 1 Time Spiral
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Timetwister
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Transmute Artifact
- 1 Wheel of Fortune
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
The logic behind some decisions:
Your countermagic is all free, allowing you to enter a lot more fights in scenarios other decks can't, and none of your real counter war ammunition gets Mental Misstepped. This last point kicks Red Elemental Blast out of the discussion.
We wanted to maximize Tinker as a free win against some of the matchups where the free wins are most important: Shops and Delver. Delver literally can't kill this card, so it edges out Blightsteel Colossus, which is slightly easier to kill Stax with while being Dack Fayden'able against Delver.
This card is awesome. You want more draw sevens, and you often are wanting to tutor up Tolarian Academy anyways, so it's often the best one.
Kills Tangle Wire on their end step to open up Hurkyl's Recall.
I ended up performing poorly, starting off 4-0 against Merfolk, Four Color Attrition Fish, Dredge, and Tezzerator, then 0-5ing versus four Stax decks and a Delver player in my only close loss.
It was the most fun I've ever had losing at an event.
I would definitely play this deck again, just with a slightly adjusted sideboard. It crushes everything else Big and Blue by being Bigger and Bluer, fights Delver fine because they are short on hard counters for big whammies, and crushes Dredge due to a favorable game 1 from the speed and inherent graveyard hate of Timetwister and Time Spiral.
I just think I approached the Stax matchup wrong. I tested the Hurkyl's Recall plus basic lands plan in Storm where it was insanely good. Here it lost a lot of its power. You can't turn 1 them nearly as often, have less mana to ramp up into getting a one-sided Upheaval over their Spheres, and just do less on the one free turn.
Instead I would play a huge amount of spot removal and just try to kill all of their things. Ingot Chewers and possibly even bringing Rack and Ruin back so I didn't have to play a green source. Kill all their things and kill them with a Tinker bot or combo turn seems way better, even if it seems odd to play attrition and then cast a draw seven.
In an odd twist, Danny got a draw early in the event after starting 1-2 and then just kept winning. He kept playing against blue and not brown, and I think it may be a semi-viable strategy to pick up a draw early and just run the bracket while pressuring your opponents on time. That last part is because you technically need to take multiple turns with Vault to kill people, so if you spend a long time comboing through draw sevens it can actually take you to and past time.
Overall, Vintage Champs was easily the most fun I had at any event I played over the last year. Well, except the ones I won. There are so many interesting decisions each game, the games are fast-paced, and the cards are great. I'm glad the format is showing signs of growth, with players from all over the world coming to play in this event, and I hope Eternal Weekend continues to be run as well as it has been.
Overall, Eternal Weekend was a great change of pace from what has become the normal Magic I've been playing. I think I may have played one or two non-pro level sanctioned events in the last five months or so. This weekend, I had to do very few cutthroat things and mostly just had fun playing games against all of my opponents where both players were still trying their hardest to win. While competing against the best in the world is its own great experience, at the core this is what the game is really about.