There has been a common thread of conversation in a lot of the Single Card Discussion threads that I feel deserves its own thread. Hopefully divorcing this idea from the individual cards will lead towards a fulfilling conversation.
The common idea that I keep seeing expressed in various threads is that a deck should exist. Whether something was tried and failed in the past, or whether it never existed in the first place, a user feels like the deck should exist and see play in Vintage.
When I started out in Vintage, it was right after the mass exodus following the restriction of Brainstorm and friends. I was a 5-color player back then that played at multi-format monthlies at a local college. While I was doing my thing with 250 card aggro decks, the room also had Standard and Vintage players. I rubbed a lot of elbows. I had bought power for my gigantic casual deck and decided I wanted to start playing Vintage. Dan Herd (R.I.P.) and Jonathan Richards immediately took me under their wings, excited to show me the format. I was invited to their Friday night game nights to play and brew decks.
I locked on to Mishra's Workshop as my deck of choice, and with Shards of Alara introducing dozens of colored artifacts to Magic I wanted to try to accelerate them out. These cards were new, so there was no baseline for how to use them. Additionally, while it had existed for three years at this point, I was enamored by the unplayed two card combo of Leyline of the Void and Helm of Obedience. Leyline of the Void was great against Dredge and Yawgmoth's Will, so having four of those and a single Helm of Obedience seemed like a slam dunk way to have a one hit KO hidden in a Smokestack deck. I jammed game after game against Dan and Jon, tuning this new twist on a classic deck.
How did I do?
It's as simple as that. My very first Vintage event, walking away with forty dual lands and a smile on my face.
Let's be honest, not all of my ideas have been that successful. The recent MTGO announcement about fixing Bartered Cow reminded me that my Cow Welder Survival deck didn't quite pan out. Terrible Stax was also lightning in a bottle, the right tool for the right job, and didn't have any follow-up success. It also helped that I had at least one opponent that read Mindlock Orb, put it down, and then cast search spells into it. The success that I did retain, however, was what the process looked like for me for brewing a successful deck.
- Identify a card or strategy that you believe should have a place in Vintage.
This is the easy part and sometimes takes all of two seconds. I saw Mindlock Orb and went "Mishra's Workshop, Mox Sapphire, Mindlock Orb" in my head. Not much more to it than that, but it was the spark that started the flame burning.
- Draw upon existing format knowledge to execute your new idea.
Let's face it, that deck I won with looks like any old Welderless Stax deck from that era. Take out the spice and I basically netdecked. But that's the thing, not all new cards and strategies are going to look like brand new decks. Often these decks are going to be spins on past decks, be it Vintage strategies or strategies from other formats. A user in one of the threads that led to this post highlighted their Modern format knowledge. Why not use that?
- Test your new idea against trustworthy opponents that will give you valuable feedback.
This is the step that a lot of ideas don't get to before they die. You can talk the talk, but you don't walk the walk. You want Yawgmoth's Bargain back but won't play a Yawgmoth's Bargain deck. You need to take the time, write down your first draft, and throw it under the scrutiny of others. There's the baseline scrutiny, where you post a decklist and get maybe an opinion or two. But the real scrutiny comes when you do what the deck is designed to do: play Magic. Play it against trustworthy friends. Play it in MTGO leagues where people are going to try because there's some amount of value on the line. Don't expect Tournament Practice or Cockatrice randoms to give you want you want, because these are people that don't have a vested interest in helping you find meaningful data. In 2008, long before power was on MTGO, I found Dan and Jon and got my reps in. I trusted them and their trust paid off.
- Accept the results.
This is truly the hardest part. You might find out your strategy doesn't have a place, that you need to move on. Usually you'll find some piece that worked, and maybe that learned lesson will live on someday when the missing piece is printed. And maybe, just maybe, you'll spike your first Vintage event. No matter what the case is, you need to accept what the game is telling you about your idea. There are still two rewards that you'll receive, even from failed ideas. The first is the knowledge and feeling of accomplishment that you've given an idea the good old college try. This idea, good or not, doesn't become another in a long list of sunk cost brainstorming that never received any real action. The second is respect from the community the more often you're willing to execute all three of the previous steps. If you brew and succeed, or brew and fail, you will still have something to offer the community in terms of valuable feedback. And if you give to the community, they will give back. Maybe it'll be quiet trust and respect, maybe they'll a trustworthy source for future ideas that make it to step three. And maybe, just maybe, they'll give you the missing piece that you've been looking for the entire time.
Thank you for reading, and happy brewing!