The_Week_That_Was

While BDM travels the globe, Bill Stark pinch-hits with a recap of the Legacy and Vintage Championships.

The Eternals

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This week takes me to Japan’s National Championship, and with that all the complexities of traveling halfway around the world. Rather than tussle with my normal deadline and the International Date Line (a fight I’m bound to lose), I am turning over the reins this week to Bill Stark for his recap of the Legacy and Vintage Championships from two weeks ago.

Before handing things off, there are a couple of Nationals results that have been shipped my way since last week’s column that I wanted to make sure got some time in the spotlight.

At New Zealand’s National Championship, there were four different decks in the top four spots. Kerel Laycock won the captaincy playing a Gruul deck that bore more than a passing resemblance to the winning decklist from the MSS Championships a few weeks ago. Depending on which section of James White’s second-place deck you look at, you could think you were seeing several different decks ranging from Perilous Storm to Gruul to black-white control. The remaining spots were earned by Andrew Pilston with Blink Touch and Douglas Wilson with Dredge. Click here for the Top 8 decklists.

If you want to see the decklists from Philippines Nationals you can find the lists here with three different archetypes getting their pilots berths at Nationals. A Tarmogoyf/Rack list took the top honor in the hands of Jose Marie Sabale. The next two spots went to Jason Ascalon and Mark Baeyens playing AngelFire. The final spot went to Mark Herrin playing OmniChord. Good luck at Worlds, guys!

If you are looking for some more cutting-edge Standard technology, keep your browser aimed squarely at the Tournament Center all weekend long. I will be doing live coverage from Japanese Nationals while Hanno Terbuyken will be manning the internet connection from German Nationals. But that’s more than enough Standard for today...take it away Bill!


Team Spirit Dominates Legacy, Vintage Championships

By Bill Stark


Gen Con was a smashing success this year and the wealth of attendance at Magic events certainly goes a long way toward demonstrating the truth of that statement. Two of the more popular events (which have perhaps the most relevancy to their respective formats) were the annual Legacy and Vintage Championships. Vintage, with its active community and resurgence in popularity over the past few years, doesn’t have many premier-level opportunities to shine throughout the year, which means the Championship serves to highlight some of the Vintage community’s biggest stars. Legacy, on the other hand, benefits from the occasional Grand Prix and has even become a Pro Tour format when it was announced it would be one of three individual formats at Worlds this year.

Legacy Championship: Finding the Threshold

Team Supreme left-right: Marc Sims, James Harris, Ryan Trepanier, Steve Conway, Marty Birthelmer.
The Top 8 of the Gen Con Legacy Championship was all about two things: the rise of Threshold in a post-Flash world and the wealth of Canadian players who took up most of the single-elimination slots. In particular, a group of Ontario players calling themselves “Team Supreme” made up an inordinately high percentage of the players playing for the title of champion. One of the team’s most outspoken members, Ryan Trepanier, took the time to answer a few questions about the exploits of the Team.

You might recognize Trepanier’s name from the Grand Prix–Columbus Top 8 class where he played Flash Hulk. Officially the team consists of Marty Birthelmer, James Harris, Steve Conway, Marc Sims, and Trepanier himself and of the five, three managed to find themselves seated during the Legacy Top 8 (Birthelmer, Trepanier, and Conway).

LEGACY DECKLISTS
A breakdown of the top 32 decks played at the 2007 Legacy Championship:
Threshold9
Goblins4
Cephalid Breakfast3
Landstill3
Aggro Loam2
Iggy Pop2
Charbelcher/Iggy Pop1
Charbelcher1
43Land1
Lion's Eye Ichorid 1
Blue-white-green1
The Hunted1
Aluren 1
Stifle Naught 1
Blue-green (splash white-red)1
For complete decklists from the Top 32, click here.

So how did the team get started? “Team Supreme is the brainchild of both Marc Sims and Steve Conway,” Trepanier said. “More or less it was just a really fun thing to do, to create a Vintage team. We all loved the format and usually faired pretty well at most tournaments. It just seemed to make sense to unite as a team.”

“While it seems our team was formed as a group of friends who all enjoyed the Supremes, I still hold firm that Marc and Steve really wanted a good reason to wear Diana Ross t-shirts to Vintage events,” Trepanier added.

But do the members of Team Supreme only focus on the Vintage and Legacy formats?

“Honestly I don’t consider myself a Vintage/Legacy player.” Ryan said. “My first and foremost priority is the PTQ format. Marty Birthelmer is also a fellow PTQ player. Marc Sims and James Harris strictly play Vintage (I believe Gen Con was Marc’s first Legacy tournament). Steve is about the exact opposite of me...primarily a Vintage/Legacy player.”

That label certainly seems accurate as Conway was the only player at Gen Con this year to achieve the rare back-to-back Top 8 in the Legacy Championship on Friday and again at the Vintage Championship on Saturday. He fell during the quarterfinals of both events but his performances add credence to Team Supreme’s prowess of the game’s oldest formats.


Legacy Championship Top 8 Profiles

Name: James King
Age: 23

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Occupation: Artist/Contracting

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 6

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 2

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Joining Team ICBM.

What deck are you playing and why?
I'm playing Jeff Rabovsky's Threshold list because it is AMAZING. I like to make it rain, and this deck facilitates that.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Force of Will. It is the nuts in every format and is the only thing that keeps things in check. Tarmogoyf. is a close second. That card let Threshold run a-train on Goblins.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Mine, obv.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Owen Turtenwald is my hookup on the sweet list. Jeff Rabovsky helped coach me and make a sideboard. Alex Groh tested the combo match with me almost infinite and ICBM always is there for help with my play and lists. I watched a lot of sports (Cubs suck and the Bears suck. Go Brewers!).

James King, Threshold

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: Marty Birthelmer
Age: 21
Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Student/Super Cool Dude

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 1

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 0

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments: PTQ and JSS wins

What deck are you playing and why?
4 Color Landstill. It beats everything and loses to everything on bad land draws.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Aether Vial or Brainstorm with a fetchland out.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Ryan Trepanier's. It's my only auto-loss apparently. He's a sack.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Mild testing with Team Supreme.

(Shout out to TEAM SUPREME!)

Marty Birthelmer, Landstill

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: David Caplan
Age: 19
Hometown: Toronto

Occupation: Student/IT Technician

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: This is my first

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 0

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: Day 2 at Grand Prix-Columbus with the same deck.

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: None.

Other previous Magic accomplishments: None.

What deck are you playing and why?
Ugr Thrash because I am comfortable with it.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Tarmogoyf/Brainstorm

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
It is too diverse to tell.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Lam Phan, Grand Prix–Philadelphia Top 8er, helped me build. I prepared with a nice 8 hour drive overnight.

David Caplan, Threshold

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: Ryan Trepanier
Age: 19
Hometown: Hammer Town, Ontario

Occupation: Professional Loudmouth Extroardinaire/Student/Idiot

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 1

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 1st

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 1 Pro Tour, 2 Grand Prix Day 2s

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 1 (Grand Prix-Columbus)

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
2004 Provincial Champion, joining "Team Supreme"

What deck are you playing and why?
43Land.dec. Not only is the deck ridiculously fun to play, but it has a favorable aggro, control/aggro matchup. Also, I wanted to prove that I can do well with a deck OTHER than Flash.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Brainstorm. However, it is such a skill-testing card that half the time it is played incorrectly.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Threshold. It has all the best cards in the format and can put on a fast clock with great disruption.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
No preparation whatsoever. I picked a deck, got opinions from good players, and came to my final build. My team, "Team Supreme," helped out as much as they could, but no one knows too much about 43 Land.

Ryan Trepanier, 43Land

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: Ernest Turck
Age: 23
Hometown: Rootstown

Occupation: Cook

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 2

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 2

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments: N/A

What deck are you playing and why?
Lion's Eye Ichorid because I didn't think people would expect it and because Joe George handed it to me.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Tarmogoyf

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Anything that uses the yard.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
I just kinda walked through the door. A friend said "play this" and I said "ok."

Ernest Turck, Lion's Eye Ichorid

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8

Name: Jesse Hatfield
Age: 17
Hometown: Fredericksburg, VA

Occupation: N/A

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 2

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 2

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Occasional success at various Legacy tournaments such as Starcitygames Duel for Duals and Mana Leak Open.

What deck are you playing and why?
Cephalid Breakfast because it is a two-card combo that wins the game for three mana and fits in a synergistic shell that can consistently assemble and protect it.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Probably Brainstorm, but many powerful cards like Force of Will and now Tarmogoyf might come close.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Cephalid Breakfast if unprepared for. Threshold is also amazing (personally I prefer UGR).

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Most of my testing is with dedicated Legacy players at the Lucky Frog in Annandale, VA.

Jesse Hatfield, Cephalid Breakfast

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: Peter Olszewski
Age: 28
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Grad Student/Instructor

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 2

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 2

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments: None

What deck are you playing and why?
U/G Threshold. It's Lam Phan's creation and he told me to go with it. It seemed to work out well!

What card is the most powerful in the format?
I don't know what 80% of the cards do. I don't know what else to say except James Horris asked me to include his name.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
I have no clue – it seems a number of archetypes could be considered most powerful. Threshold seems to be quite powerful and consistent.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
No preparation – all credit goes to Lam Pham and Rich Mattiuzzo for their suggestions and help at the event. I came primarily to play Vintage, but was convinced to try the Legacy event. I had to read Serum Visions and Mental Note when I played them. : )

Peter Olszewski, Threshold

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Name: Steve Conway
Age: 24
Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Feng Shui Consultant

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 1st time attending

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 1st time attending

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: Never played in one

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: None

Other previous Magic accomplishments: I've won some multiplayer games

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Islands

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Threshold

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
I didn't prepare at all.

Steve Conway, Threshold

2007 Legacy Championship Top 8


Still, despite taking up so many slots in the Top 8 it was a second group of Canadian players who managed to walk away with the Legacy Championship title in tow. Relative unknown Peter Olszewski from Toronto took home the trophy but admitted being familiar with the guys from Team Supreme. “We all know each other, we’re all friends. We [Peter’s team] don’t work with them, but we see them all the time at events.”

Teamwork is apparently an important aspect of playing Magic in Canada and Olszewski gave all the credit for his Threshold deck to teammate Lam Phan. Phan, the diminutive Grand Prix-Philadelphia Top 8er, is a well-known name within the Vintage and Legacy communities. Going into the tournament Peter had had some specific thoughts on the potential metagame, saying that he thought the format would reset to Threshold/Goblins archetypes after the Flash banning.

Phan believes the Divining Top/Counterbalance combination has become the key to Threshold decks.

While Goblins didn’t see as much play as many had expected, there was plenty of Threshold. “Our particular build of Threshold was supposed to have an edge against the mirror, and I felt that,” Olszewski said. He explained the advantage comes from their sideboard “consisting of Counterbalance and Divining Top, that we have four Wasteland, and that we don’t splash for a removal color that’s mostly dead in the mirror. I didn’t lose a mirror match at the event.”

Lam added his thoughts on how important the Counterbalance/Divining Top combo will be in the future: “Top/CB will be in all winning Threshold decks. Games two and three will just be a race to see who gets their combo down first.”

That wasn’t the only card which made a difference, however. Said Phan “Tarmogoyf completely pushes Threshold over the top. I can now go ‘aggro’ against Goblins and if enough pressure is applied early gobbos must start blocking and can’t mount a counter attack. I strongly believe that ‘Goyf is here to stay.”

It was Phan who had come to that conclusion for his “team” (which includes Olszewski and Rich Mattiuzzo, who Top 8ed the Vintage Championship this year), and Peter couldn’t overstate the importance of his teammates’ efforts in his success. “[My deck choice] was entirely based on what my teammates had suggested to me. They told me what kind of stuff I could expect to face.”

The respect was mutual and Phan described Olszewski by saying “Peter is our resident genius. He’ll take our results and decks and just win.” That statement seems accurate when one considers Peter admitted he had done no testing for the Legacy tournament.

Vintage Championship: Masters at Work

Shifting to Vintage, our focus moves from the dominance of Canada to an all-American finals—and what a finals it was! Vintage standouts Rich Shay and Steve Menendian were the two players in the Top 8 playing Gro-A-Tog (GAT) and after hard-fought quarterfinal and semifinal matches they found themselves staring each other down for the title of champion. What did they think about playing one another?

“Exhilaration,” said Menendian. “I have the utmost respect for Rich. Playing Rich in the finals was surreal; He is a phenomenally successful Vintage player.”

Rich echoed similar sentiments saying “Steve is an excellent player and I am glad to have had him as my opponent in the finals of Vintage [Championship]. Before the match I told him that I hoped for three close games, regardless of the winner. I consider Steve a friend and am happy to see that he did well.”

Vintage Championship Top 8 Profiles

Name: Alex Franson
Age: 19
Hometown: Oak Creek, Wisconsin

Occupation: Student/unemployed

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 6

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 1

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments: 5 Color Worlds Top 8, twice

What deck are you playing and why?
GWS Pitch Long with my own special twist...

What card is the most powerful in the format?
I would have to say Black Lotus because it won me the most games.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
The one I'm playing.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
I looked up a decklist at 3 a.m. this morning with a cell phone. I didn't play a single game with the deck until Round 1.

Alex Franson, GWS Pitch Long

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Rich Shay
Age: 26
Hometown: Norwood, Massachusetts

Occupation: Grad Student in Computer Science at Purdue

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 3

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 3 each

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: About 3 Pro Tours, 3 Nationals, 3 Grand Prix Day 2.

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: None

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Rhode Island state champion, won Waterbury, 20th at Grand Prix–Philadelphia, around 12th at Grand Prix–New Jersey.

What deck are you playing and why?
Gro-a-Tog (GAT): It is consistent and powerful. It is strong against everything from degenerate combo to aggro. I am very happy Gush is unrestricted—it keeps the format safer from combo.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Black Lotus

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Flash has the most raw power. GAT is, I think, the best deck.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Thanks to my teammates on Reflection for all their help preparing. New England has a wonderful Type 1 scene and I was fortunate to have played the format at many events this summer. The New England Vintage scene has great players, too numerous to name. Much thanks everyone.

Richard Shay, GAT

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Nick Calcaterra
Age: 18
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Occupation: Freshman in college

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 1st time

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 1st time

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments: Top 16 Regionals

What deck are you playing and why?
Ichorid. The deck plays no power and was cheap to build. Although Leyline was probably a 4-of in 90 percent of the decks, it didn't scare me from playing it. However, it did scare everyone else so that loosened the pressure on Ichorid.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Black Lotus - OBV

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Flash – Fast, easy to play, and hard to disrupt. Being able to back up a turn 1 win with double counter backup is ridiculous.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
I goldfished a couple of times and went to a couple of tournies. My friends at Team Ogre playtested with me a bit, and then made fun of me for picking a virtually suicide choice.

Nick Calcaterra, Ichorid

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Ray Robillard
Age: 26
Hometown: Waterbury, Connecticut

Occupation: Math Teacher/Department Head

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 4

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 4

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 1

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Tournament Organizer of TMD and TML Open (Waterbury) Tournaments

What deck are you playing and why?
Staxless Stax. I have played this deck religiously since I created it two years ago. It is the best Workshop-based deck in Vintage.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Jagged Poppet, obviously

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Tie: Staxless Stax and The Mountains Win Again

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Playing in local events (Myriad Games, ELD's Mox events, Hadley, etc.). Playtesting with Team TPS.

Raymond Robillard, Staxless Stax

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Vincent Forino
Age: 30
Hometown: New York

Occupation: International Real Estate Agent

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 2

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 2

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0 (never entered a Pro Tour)

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: I only play Vintage

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Top 16 about every Vintage event I've been to. Second place in a 700 person tournament 10+ years ago.

What deck are you playing and why?
FSB: Forino Sui Black or as Josh Meckes likes to call it "Ghetto Storm."

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Black Lotus

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
No one deck is best; as for most powerful probably Flash.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Praying – to God goes all the glory. I also played with my NY crew: Roland, Raffaele F. Josh Meckes.

Vincent Forino, Suicide Black

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Steve Conway
Age: 24
Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Feng Shui Consultant

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 1st year attending, 2nd day playing

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: I have played in Legacy Championships

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: Never played in one

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Did OK in Legacy tournament Friday.

What deck are you playing and why?
Supreme Stax because Ryan Trepanier told me to play it.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Your choice.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Obviously mine

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Team Supreme testing at Penny Lane without Ryan Trepanier

Steve Conway, Supreme Stax

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Richard Mattiuzzo
Age: 27
Hometown: Mississauga

Occupation: IT Industry

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 3

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 3 Vintage, 1 Legacy

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 0

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

What deck are you playing and why?
Landstill. It's exciting to play because every game is a struggle and it is a highly interactive deck.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
There are many powerful cards in Vintage. If I had to choose I'd say Black Lotus.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
There is no one deck that stands above all others. Currently GAT is the most powerful, consistent deck. However, Flash is most powerful in terms of raw power.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
I've been playing Vintage for 10 years, but I didn't do anything to specifically prepare for this event. Much of my success can be attributed to my teammates (Lam Phan, Peter Olszewki) for their insight on improving my gameplay.

Richard Mattiuzzo, Landstill

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


Name: Stephen Menendian
Age: 27
Hometown: Colombus, Ohio

Occupation: Attorney

Number of Times Attending Gen Con: 4

Number of Times Playing Vintage and/or Legacy Championships: 4

Number of Times Playing on the Pro Tour/Nationals/Grand Prix Day 2: 1

Number of GP/PT Top 8s: 0

Other previous Magic accomplishments:
Top 32 at Grand Prix-Columbus, Top 8 in Vintage champs in 2004, at least 10 Starcitygames Power 9 Top 8s, Starcity columnist since 2002

What deck are you playing and why?
I helped develop Gro-a-Tog in 2003 and helped push Gush towards destruction.

What card is the most powerful in the format?
Yawgmoth's Will followed by Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall.

What deck is the most powerful in the format?
Flash is interesting in one sense; GAT is most powerful in that it is the best deck.

How did you prepare for the event? Who did you prepare with?
Testing with teammates and in tournaments

Steve Menendian, GAT

2007 Vintage Championship Top 8


It was Menendian who took the mirror match and walked away the champion, practically a fairy tale ending for the Vintage poster boy (you can read a recap of their final match here). With his work on Starcitygames highlighting the format, Steve has not only given a face to the world of Classic play but to himself as well. That hard work paid off with his win at the Vintage Championship, which was followed the next week with the announcement that he was named the R&D selection to the 2007 Magic Invitational.

Menendian, left, and Shay agreed to share the prize.

Shay is no slouch himself. An occasional Starcitygames contributor as well Shay has seen action at the Pro Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s also seen some success on the premier Vintage leagues across the country having won both a Waterbury and Starcity Power 9 tournament. Still, that’s not what he credits as being the most important feather in his cap.

“None of these accomplishments has given me more joy than being a part of the Vintage community,” Shay said. “I know that other formats have larger events with larger prizes but Pro Tours and Nationals are never as enjoyable as the much smaller high-level Vintage events.”

Sentimental notions aside, we are talking about a championship for the most potentially broken format in Magic: The Gathering, and more than a few eyebrows were raised with the recent un-restricting of Gush. Had either Steve or Ray considered playing something else prior to the tournament?

GushGush was the key engine of the most dominant Vintage deck of the last five years,” said Steve. “How could you not play that deck again?”

Added Rich: “Gush is a tremendous card in Vintage. It’s free card draw! For me the un-restriction of Gush brought back a deck I enjoyed playing many years ago.”

With the success of the two players playing the deck in the Top 8, did either feel it should return to the Restricted list? To that end Rich responded by saying “Gush should not be restricted. I commend the foresight Wizards showed in unrestricting it. Gush is a very strong card, but it’s strong in the same way that Force of Will is strong: its very strength helps to maintain balance in the format. Using Gush to fuel a combo deck has not seen success; rather, Gush has seen play in control decks—the very sorts of decks which help to keep combo in check.”

Menendian agreed, though for different reasons saying “Nothing should be done [to Gush] right now. Although Gush is broken, the Gush decks haven’t picked up like I thought they would. So far GAT isn’t very popular. It’s being played by a relatively small population of people—roughly 10 percent of Vintage tournament populations—but it’s over-represented in Top 8s. Until GAT becomes more heavily played, it’s hard to justify restriction.”

Both players expressed some surprise at a few of the decks in the Top 8.

“The Top 8 deck which surprised me the most was Ichorid,” Shay said. “Ichorid is an inexpensive and very powerful deck but is also a deck that can be directly attacked through specific sideboard choices. There was a time earlier this summer where there were so many sideboard cards dedicated to stopping Ichorid that playing it was a bad idea.”

“I expected three GATs, two Flash decks, two Stax decks, and one ‘other.’ Suicide Black in the Top 4? That was pretty shocking.”
– Steve Menendian, on the Vintage Top 8

Steve was caught off guard by the diversity of the Top 8. “I expected three GATs, two Flash decks, two Stax decks, and one ‘other.’ Suicide Black in the Top 4? That was pretty shocking.”

The Championship itself was a fan-filled affair despite being played out late into the night. Throngs of well-wishers crowded around to get a look at two of the biggest names from their community battle head-to-head, and both finalists—demonstrating a mentality that might help to explain why they have so many fans to begin with—took the time to shake hands with each member of the crowd afterwards. Their prize, an oversized alternative art Mox Jet which the two had agreed to jointly own regardless of who won, was even left on display for onlookers to see for themselves, photograph, and measure for scale.

“The Vintage community is vibrant, intelligent, and active,” Steve explained. “They love playing Vintage because it’s such a fun format. The interactions are wild and amazing. In what other format is every major deck so unique and so fun to play? It’s like sanctioned Type Four.”

Rich echoed Steve’s sentiments. “The Vintage community is amazing. The tournaments are friendly and while everyone is trying to win, victory is not placed above good sportsmanship. To me, this is the essence of what a good game is – an excuse to hang out with some great people.”

With such vibrant support from their very active community, what did the title of ‘Vintage Champion’ mean to Rich? “I didn’t play in the event because I cared about the booster packs. I wanted the title.”

He added, pejoratively, “However, Steve is certainly an excellent and deserving champion. As we Red Sox fans so often must do, I’ll just console myself that there’s always next year.”

Steve also had some thoughts on what it meant to be a Vintage Champion.

“Going in I guess it didn’t really mean as much, probably because I just imagined it was beyond my reach. Too many things have to fall into place to get the title. I am proud to hold the title.”

Whether it was a horde of Canadian players stealing the thunder at the Legacy Championship or two of the Vintage game’s biggest stars taking center stage for the Vintage title, this year’s Gen Con events were certainly ones for the history books. Time will tell if we hear from Team Supreme, Lam Phan, Peter Olszewski, Rich Shay, or Steve Menendian again but judging by their performances this year I would say it’s a solid bet that we will...

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