The Road to Vintage Super League: BUG Fish

rachel

Hey Fishy Fishy! I am back again with yet another Vintage deck to bug your friends with. BUG Fish has been in the Vintage pond for a long time and it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. It’s a good stuff deck and there isn’t any shortage of good stuff to play in Vintage. There are always new toys to add and ways to tinker the deck to individual metagames and styles. It’s versatility and consistency make it a strong contender. However, with this deck you will never win in a spectacular fashion. It’s a grindy deck that’s more like Modern Jund than Goryo’s Vengeance. The plus side is that the deck has game against almost anything. You’ll rarely find yourself saying, “Well I just have nothing for this match-up.”

So what exactly is Fish? And what’s it got to do with Magic? Traditionally, Fish decks rely on cheap creatures that give you value or great bang for your buck. Combined with removal and disruption and you have all the makings for a Tempo/Control deck with lots of play and decision making. The BUG, Sultai, Ana, or whatever you want to call the color combination provides endless tools and choices so feel free to customize the deck how you see fit. Here is the list I usually play on Modo:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the strongest aspects of this deck is its customization potential. Notably I have omitted a vast array of Vintage staples as the deck has more options than room for them all. Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor are handy, especially post-board. However, I’ve found they often taxed your spells too much by adding extra mana or a draw phase to them. Tarmogoyf is great and presents a quick clock capable of battling even big Eldrazi, but sadly there was no room for him. Main deck Flusterstorm can be used for more Blue/Combo metagames. The same goes for Null Rod, if there are tons of artifact decks. Sadly, Leovold isn’t available on Magic Online yet, but I am not entirely sure it’s better than Edric. Any of those cards would be fine inclusions.

Additionally, flex spots, or card spots that can be tinkered with to your preference and metagame include, the second Edric, Notion Thief, Mox Emerald, Gitaxian Probe, and the fourth Snapcaster Mage. Basically, you want to prepare for the metagame that you are expecting. Let’s dig into the inclusions.

Dark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark Confidant

Although admittedly very un-aquatic, Dark Confidant is the poster-boy of the fish deck. Dropping one of these early is the goal and if left unanswered he can run away with the game by providing both card advantage and pressure. A 2/1 in Vintage is nothing to be scoffed at. Because of Deathrite Shaman, you don’t necessarily need the third Mox in the deck. But I do enjoy maximizing on the potential turn-one Dark Confidant. That’s this deck’s equivalent to a “free-win”. Don’t be afraid to drop a second one right away. 4 Force of Wills and 2 8-drops shouldn’t discourage you in the slightest. Remember, greatness at ANY cost.

Deathrite ShamanDeathrite ShamanDeathrite ShamanDeathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman is an amazing creature and is one of the most impactful one-drop creatures late-game this side of Goblin Welder. Used primarily for his mana acceleration ability, Deathrite Shaman allows you to drop your more expensive haymakers, like Edric and Jace, faster. Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt are both good versus this deck but they will be heavily taxed. Between Deathrite, Bob, Snapcasters, and Edric there are always plenty of ways to close out a game and apply pressure after expending the opponent’s removal. That is the biggest difference between Fish style decks and a Mana Drain control deck like Landstill. Additionally, the graveyard disruption this little guy provides allows you to skimp a little more on Dredge hate as he is great at slowing that down for other hosers. The lifegain can be clutch for times Bob threatens to send you to Davy Jones Locker.

Snapcaster MageSnapcaster MageSnapcaster MageSnapcaster Mage

Snapcaster Mage is an all-star in this deck. (Honestly which deck CAN’T say that?) We always want to have a glut of cards in our hand and we want our spells to be cheap so we can deploy them effectively. Is your deck full of cheap, plentiful spells? Sign Snapcaster Mage right up! I have included 4 copies here but feel free to just play 3 if you want to fit in a Demonic Tutor. I could totally see cutting a Snapcaster Mage and an Edric for a Cabal Therapy and a Demonic Tutor as well. I personally like the full playset to compliment my double Edric against the plentiful blue decks you will face on Magic Online and nothing grinds better and applies pressure to Planeswalkers like good ole Snappy.

Notion Thief

Notion Thief is a super sweet card. No one can argue that. Or argue the fact that it just shuts down so many blue decks on the spot like no other card can. Usually I board it in with Misdirection and Mental Misstep to protect it in additional ways. If you haven’t had the headache of playing against this card I promise you it can be quite a beating and does well against many hard to answer problems like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Dack Fayden. Our deck has plenty of ways to power this guy out early as well. Careful, he does get Pyroblasted a lot. Guess it’s the price he pays.

Edric, Spymaster of TrestEdric, Spymaster of Trest

Ok so I know this guy sticks out like a sore thumb here. I’ve seen some older lists playing a single copy of this creature, but I’ve leaned super aggressive on the creature side so I opted to add a second copy of this little spy. Admittedly, this is pretty greedy. Oops? Three mana should not be taken lightly in Vintage especially since it requires two separate colors as well. If you want to go down to a single copy I wouldn’t fault you at all but I love the card advantage it provides. It can take a game and swing it so wide in your favor if the opponent can’t answer it. Edric’s trigger effectively has haste since you usually already have a Snapcaster, Deathrite, or Bob on the battlefield. Really puts Dark Confidant to work for you churning out cards. However, drawing tons of cards also comes with the necessity to deploy them in the most disrupting manner possible. Which leads us to some other additions.

Abrupt DecayAbrupt DecayAbrupt Decay

Abrupt Decay is the go-to removal spell for this deck. Two mana is pretty intense in Vintage, and while it has immunity to Mental Misstep and other counterspells, costing two mana is no small matter. Luckily, this fish deck is packed full of mana sources like sardines and you shouldn’t have much of an issue casting two spells a turn even if one of them is the Decay. Providing extra utility versus a wide array of threats that are normally tougher to answer is Abrupt Decay’s specialty. Decks without access to it even resort to cards like Sudden Shock to emulate the guaranteed removal that it provides. It picks off cards like Delver, Mentor, Sylvan Library, Moxen, Dack Fayden, Oath of Druids, Defense Grid, Time Vault, and plenty more where cards like Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, and Dismember can be unreliable. Just reread that list. It’s basically a who’s who of Vintage cards. Careful for Jace, Lodestone Golem, and Thouhgt-Knot Seer though.

ThoughtseizeThoughtseize

Thoughtseize’s inclusion shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Fish decks rely on successful disruption as they lack the blazing fast clock other decks like Merfolk or Storm have or the prison pieces decks like MUD can access. Thoughtseize and Force of Will work amazingly when you have ways to break card parity. Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, and Edric all provide reliable ways to break the 1 for 1 nature of discard spells. Dropping an Edric attacking with a creature or two then following up with a Thoughtseize is a great preemptive way to shut down the opponent’s plan and keep the pressure on.

Mental MisstepMental MisstepMental Misstep

Force of WillForce of WillForce of WillForce of Will

Running a full playset of Force of Will with a full playset of Dark Confidant may sound risky. And hell sometimes it can backfire but those instances are the vast minority. Dark Confidant and Force of Will actually are great friends and it is often the correct play to protect Bob with a Force of Will or Mental Misstep so you can trade cards while still refilling. Force of Will empties your hand out fast so to keep your head above water cards like Bob, Edric, Jace and even a Library of Alexandria fit the bill (Library would go in over a Wasteland if you feel so inclined).

WastelandWastelandWasteland

Playing blue without access to Gush is harsh. But even I’m not crazy enough to force Confidant, Gush, and Force in one deck. Luckily that gives us the ability to play Wastelands. Taking advantage of the very strong mana base is an upside here as well. You will almost never have an issue with colors despite the Wastelands and Strip Mine. Wasteland works amazingly with Deathrite Shaman as a turn 1 shaman allows you to still drop a Dark Confidant as well as disrupt the opponent. Feel free to trade a Wasteland for a Library of Alexandria if there are wayyy too many blue decks running around since it provides another way to just bury slower decks.

I plan to discuss the sideboard in depth next week along with gameplay footage of this sweet and fun deck. But before that I will touch on a couple sideboard cards here.

Misdirection

Misdirection used to see a ton more play in Vintage pre-Mental Misstep era as it was a great trump to the Ancestral Recall battles that were very common. Cards like Imperial Seal, Mystical Tutor, and Merchant Scroll were all used plentifully to grab Ancestral Recall and trying to run away with the card advantage. Misdirection provided a way to blow people the hell out and it was usually a game winning play to end a counter war with a Misdirection targeting the Recall making the opponent choose you as the lucky benefactor. Mental Misstep, and Flusterstorm, made those Recall battles far less frequent. Cards like Imperial Seal, Merchant Scroll, and Mystical Tutor only see play in a select few decks these days as wasting the mana/draw phase on an Ancestral Recall that is bound to get Misstep’d proved to be too much a losing proposition.

Misdirection serves a different purpose here. One of the best ways for fair decks to beat BUG Fish is to remove its key creatures. Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, and Dismember are the most common ways to deal with such creatures and Misdirection is a great way to protect them in a way that gains you tempo. Most of your creatures will be able to regain you the card advantage lost from Misdirection right away so your opponent will be the only one who “FeelsBadMan.” Hey it can even “counter” an opposing Abrupt Decay and the potential to blow out an Ancestral Recall and live the dream still exists. This still is Vintage after all.

Trygon Predator

Trygon Predator is a relic of Vintage from years ago. However, the flying magic-hungry beast still has plenty to munch on these days. Predator shines in decks that can accelerate into it quickly and from that point it can prove quite useful versus many different decks from Shops to Oath and even Eldrazi and taxes decks. Don’t underestimate this guy. Null Rod is also a great alternative if you expect lots of Paradoxical Outcome decks or Steel City Vault.

So there you have it fellow Vintage enthusiasts. BUG Fish is a entertaining and competitive deck with many lines of play and lots of variance in gameplay. I will be back next week with a complete sideboarding guide and gameplay footage! Hopefully, this article got the creative juices flowing and show you that midrange is alive and well in Vintage. The deck is super easy to customize and you can pretty much shape the flex spots however you see fit. Tailoring a top deck to your own personal style is certainly this deck’s biggest draw in my opinion. Play your cards correctly and you can be the shark among guppies.

Thanks again for reading!
<3 Baetog_

The Road to Vintage Super League: Sylvan Mentor

rachel

Happy almost hump day everybody! Hope everyone had a great prerelease and are now proud new owners of many masterpieces. For those that don’t know me, my name is Rachel and I’m a Vintage and Cube enthusiast and streamer. I like long walks to my LGS and warm Cube games by the fireplace. And today we’re kicking off a series about making a path to the Vintage Super League. This is my first article and I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

Vintage Super League, or VSL, is to Vintage players what the Pro Tour is to Standard and Limited players. While it may not come with the prize money, fancy destinations and pro points, a dream is still a dream, and this girl’s dream is to make it onto the VSL as a competitor. This series will chronicle almost every tier 1 Vintage deck, from choosing a deck for certain metagames, to sideboarding, to game play. I’m using my knowledge of the format and learning it the hard knocks way so you don’t have too.

Playing Vintage on Magic Online is an all-time favorite past time and you can always find me in the two-man queues, or playing in dailies (when they fire). Paper Magic is a luxury I also take part of when I can. I play a range of different decks including Mentor, Fish, Oath, and Prison. Decks like Shops and Dredge don’t really fit my play style as much, but they are still quite strong when metagamed properly.

Today, I’ll be Mentoring you as we Sa-Shay into one of the absolute best decks in Vintage. I can’t Gush enough about it. The one, the only: Mentor Gush.

This is the current build of Mentor that I find to be ideal. What makes this version unique from other Mentor builds? This card:

Sylvan Library - Eternal Masters

Sylvan Library – Eternal Masters

While the idea of Sylvan Library with Monastery Mentor is not new, I feel like I have made some excellent tweaks here to make it more powerful.

Despite the presence of more creature based prison decks, along with Aggro Shops builds, you still rarely find your life total under much duress in Vintage. Converting the resource that is your life total into palpable extra cards is something that few other cards provide. Vintage Mentor decks are blue-based decks that rely on the explosiveness of Monastery Mentor in particular to provide a fast clock, as well as outclass other creatures. However, they still follow many conventional norms of blue control and when it comes down to blue vs blue, card advantage is king.

I see many players confused about card advantage, defined as cards that do more than replace themselves. While card filtering and cantrips are crucial to deck fluidity, velocity, and consistency, many blue decks still lack true ways to gain actual card advantage. Some cards that generate card advantage:

StandstillGushJace, the Mind SculptorTreasure CruiseDark Confidant
Dig Through TimeAncestral Recall

Cards that generally do NOT generate card advantage, but who’s inclusion in decks make them more consistent and powerful:

PreordainBrainstormPonderGitaxian ProbeSensei&#8217;s Divining Top

So what do we do now that we have all this card filtering but no true card advantage? Well, I’m here to tell you about your new ,or old, best friend. Sylvan Library provides excellent card advantage using your life as payment. Even as your life total whittles down it still provides card filtering and selection, along the lines of Sensei’s Divining Top. Similarly to Top, fetch lands also provide much needed shuffle effects to continually make sure you are drawing gas. Additionally, being an enchantment means that it will be relatively difficult to remove, unlike cards similar to Dark Confidant. Being a two-drop also grants it immunity from the omnipresent Mental Misstep. Being green allows it to dodge Pyroblast and Hydroblast and as an enchantment it is protected from Flusterstorm. Many times when you cast Sylvan Library your opponent will give pause and most likely end up using Force of Will on it. And they would be right to! It is a real Lib-Rarity that the player who resolves this powerful enchantment doesn’t ride the card advantage to victory.

For main deck choices, I like the various splits and numbers:

Jace, the Mind SculptorJace, the Mind SculptorDack FaydenDack Fayden

Provide a great diversification in mana cost for planeswalkers and allow you to keep churning through your deck for answer cards and of course to feed the Mentor. He’s always hungry! And the more he’s fed the bigger he and his little companions grow.

Sylvan LibrarySylvan Library

While being a main focus of the deck, it does have its downside in that it is redundant. Sylvan Library when drawn in multiples serves no purpose other than the hope that one is countered or removed. For this reason I feel like two is the correct number, as it means that you have a reasonable shot of seeing it in a given game but a slim chance at drawing both.

Swords to PlowsharesSwords to PlowsharesSwords to Plowshares

I feel like this could be metagame dependent. If there are many problematic creature decks hanging around, like I find to be the case on Magic Online, then I believe 3 copies is great. Otherwise, feel free to shave to 2 main deck copies with 1 or 2 more in the board.

Force of WillForce of WillForce of WillForce of WillMental Misstep
Mental MisstepMental MisstepMental Misstep

These are pretty nonnegotiable here. Free counterspells are essential in Vintage far more so than Legacy. These are the two best and provide great synergy with the card advantage of Sylvan Library and prowess triggers for Mentor. Mental Misstep is a dominating driving force in Vintage. Expect to see it as a 4 of in many decklists.

Monastery MentorMonastery MentorMonastery MentorMonastery MentorGush
GushGushGush

These are the cards that give the deck the most punch. If you need to know why these cards are central to a deck in the game’s most cutthroat format I suggest you just try a few games out and they will demonstrate their power. Winning after resolving a Mentor is just an afterthought. It will just happen. Gush helps you resolve the Mentor and also helps you immediately trigger it.

Mox PearlMox SapphireMox JetMox RubyMox Emerald

Many of the plays in our deck, Jace, Mentor, Sylvan Library, are drastically more powerful when played on the first or second turn and have their maximum chance at snowballing the advantage. For this reason, all 5 moxen have been added to increase our odds of being able to deploy these threats faster. You can also hold them later in the game to immediately trigger Mentor. Mana early, Mentor food later.

Gitaxian ProbeGitaxian ProbeGitaxian Probe

Mostly here for their outstanding synergy with Monastery Mentor, but don’t be afraid to cut them versus aggressive decks that pressure your life total or decks with Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst. Also, note that while powerful with Mentor, this card is a nonbo of sorts with Sylvan Library as it taxes the same resource, your life total.

FlusterstormPyroblast

These are mostly flex spots. Feel free to gear these towards your particular metagame ,along with the sideboard, or cards you have a liking to. Flusterstorm can be increased to 2 or down to 0 main deck copies since it really excels in combo matchups and against decks where you foresee counter battles. Pyroblast is similar and stronger against Force of Will than Flusterstorm, but weaker to Mental Misstep. This would be the best place to experiment a pet card in my opinion.

Ancestral Recall

Sadly, I cannot seem to fit more of these into my deck 🙁

Notable Omissions:

Strip Mine

I felt that this deck, by running 4 colors, Gush, and with the prevalence of Wasteland, didn’t really want another colorless source in addition to the Library of Alexandria. I prefer the games you can run away with Library of Alexandria over the times I get someone with Strip Mine, although some Mentor decks would prefer the Strip Mine or even both.

Preordain

Honestly, there just isn’t room for this card in this decklist and while it is an amazing card in many Mentor builds, here it is superfluous.

Seeker of the Way

Some versions of this deck have run Seeker as a way to provide pressure and gain life simultaneously, which translates into more cards off of the Library. However, I found that Seeker of the Way often didn’t live by its own merits and was only really a win-more card. With vintage decks, win more cards are especially suspect as lists are super tight. Without access to a Sylvan Library having a Seeker was not optimal. In the end, he fell by the WAYside and has been asked to Seek alternate employment.

Thank you so much for following me along my road to the big leagues! I hope this provided insight into a super fun and powerful Vintage deck that is Sylvan Mentor. For the next installment in the series, I will have video gameplay of some of my matches with commentary as we see how this deck fares in the wild west that is Vintage. It’ll be a pyroBlast!

I’d love to hear what you’d love to read about, so feel free to comment/contact me. You can find me on Facebook under Rachel Agnes, and Twitter/Instagram/Twitch under the name Baetog_.

<3 Baetog_