2019 was a tumultuous year for constructed Magic, and Vintage was certainly not spared from that tumult. War of the Spark, Modern Horizons, and a series of restrictions hugely changed the Vintage landscape from summer onwards. Given that, I struggled with how to approach this analysis (for instance, I considered running numbers for different quarters of the year, so we could see the impact of e.g. the Karn printing, or Mental Misstep restriction). Ultimately, I decided that simpler is better: anyone reading this should still get an overall sense of the Austin meta, without getting too granular. As such, the numbers here represent our entire season’s data lumped together. I hope this is a useful look into the RtS playerbase and what performs well, so that in the 2020 season we can all make better-informed strategic choices about what to play.

Archetype Appearances Percentage
Xerox 27 18%
Shops 18 12%
Rogue / Brews 18 12%
PO 17 11%
Survival 16 11%
Oath 12 8%
Dredge 12 8%
DPS 8 5%
BUGx Control 6 4%
Lands 6 4%
Eldrazi 5 3%
Merfolk 2 1%
Moon Stompy 2 1%
Landstill 1 1%

Notes on Deck Classification

  • Xerox: My rule of thumb is fair decks with 4 Preordain, so Jeskai, RUG, etc
  • Shops: Primarily Ravager Shops, as well as the Karn/Mystic Forge abomination
  • Rogue / Brews: Includes decks like 5C Stax, Fastbond High Tide, Infect, and NinjaStill
  • Oath: Includes BUG Combo Oath, Inferno, Niv Mizzet, and OathStill
  • Lands: Includes Lands Prison, Dark Depths, and Fastbond Combo

Overall Metagame

  • This data represents 150 decklists over 8 Vintage events.
  • Like 2018, Xerox was the most popular archetype in Austin. In fact, the archetype’s representation grew by 5% over last year.
  • Survival saw a huge uptick this season, with its meta share increasing by 8%. This isn’t surprising: Survival was a late-2018 breakout, and in 2018’s analysis I predicted we’d see more of it.
  • The other Bazaar deck, Dredge, also saw a big increase. Its meta share doubled from 4% to 8%.
  • Shops, PO, Oath, DPS, and Eldrazi all saw similar representation year over year.
  • Interestingly, BUG’s meta share was halved compared to 2018. We’ll discuss this a bit more in the Top 4 analysis.
  • I expect in 2020 we’ll see a growth in the Lands strategies, similar to what we saw with Survival. Fastbond was unrestricted mid-way through the year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when players have an entire season with the card.
  • If Merfolk, Moon Stompy, and Landstill put up similar (or fewer) numbers next season, I’ll consider lumping them in with other categories. I broke them out here because while they’re pretty insignificant parts of the meta, they’re established archetypes that don’t cleanly fit into the other categories.
Archetype Appearances Percentage
PO 9 28%
Shops 4 13%
Survival 4 13%
Dredge 3 9%
Eldrazi 3 9%
Xerox 2 6%
BUGx Control 2 6%
Oath 1 3%
DPS 1 3%
Lands 1 3%
Rogue / Brews 1 3%
Merfolk 1 3%

Top 4 Analysis

  • It shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention, but PO was the big winner this season. 18% is a healthy share of the meta, but 28% conversion to Top 4s is pretty impressive. There’s an interesting question of what would happen if we broke Bryan Hockey’s stats out from this, but I’ll spare us all an ego boost for him.
  • Eldrazi was next best converter, going from 3% of the meta to 9% of Top 4 appearances. Austin’s a blue town, so Thorn effects and uncounterable beaters are good around here.
  • Everyone plays Xerox, and no one does well with it! Just like last year, Xerox was the most popular archetype in Austin, yet converted quite poorly.
  • Brewing was a dubious proposition this season, but I suspect the players in that category aren’t too worried about it.
  • Oath didn’t bomb, exactly, but it did pretty poorly. This lines up pretty well with global Vintage results, where Oath hasn’t performed for a while.
  • 2019 has been a wild ride for BUG. Alongside Xerox, I named it one of last season’s big losers. This year we saw its meta share drop significantly, but then a series of factors really strengthened the deck in the second half of the season. The Mental Misstep restriction was a pretty big deal, as Deathrite Shaman is castable again. The deck had some great printings, such as Collector Ouphe and Force of Vigor. Shops and Dredge both saw some mid-year surges, and BUG was able to prey on them.
  • Shops and Dredge both converted pretty evenly to Top 4s. I think this is a sign of a healthy meta: these two decks play an important role in an enjoyable Vintage experience, but overperformance by either leaves a lot of players with a bad taste in their mouths.

TO’s Season 2 Retrospective

Romancing the Stones balances casual and competitive play. Our promotional materials, affinity for alcohol, and overall tone pushes our players to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company. However, our community is made up of some very good players, and our tournament & invitational structure encourages you to bring your A game. This is exactly what I’d hoped for when we founded this series: a chance to hang out with friends, while also getting in some quality, competitive games of Vintage. Last year I wrote, “ I felt that we saw our meta growing more sophisticated as the season progressed… With that, I also felt like the level of competition got steeper.” This year bares that out.

To me, the data shows a metagame mapping closer to what you see on MTGO, or what you’d expect at a large paper event. Likewise, our players are getting better, more versed in their decks, and more knowledgeable of the format. An obvious example is Bryan Hockey’s semifinals finish at North American Vintage Champs; but even anecdotally, I’ve found it much harder to win this season – in comparison to four Top 4 finishes in 2018, I only had one this year! You guys are good opponents.

I hope 2020 is much more stable than 2019 was. As was the case for most formats, Vintage saw many new printings enter the cardpool, and 5 of them leave it in subsequent B&R updates! Summertime was a particularly rough: the Karn and Dredge decks were quite powerful, and as neither was fun to play with or against, many of us lost some faith in the format. That said, this analysis helped me put the year in perspective. Outside of the few months in which new WAR printings ruined everything, the meta was reasonably balanced and diverse, and the gameplay was pretty good.

In looking back on the year as a TO, we had a number of metrics and accomplishments worth summarizing:

  • Events hosted: 12
  • Posters designed: 10
  • Proxies designed and awarded: 10
  • Average player turnout: 20
  • Largest player turnout: 31
  • We also ran our first-ever road event: RtS12, in Houston
  • We sent 6 players to Eternal Weekend, with Bryan Hockey making the semifinals wearing a RtS shirt
  • We launched our own website
  • Wednesday Night Eternal started in 2019, and met weekly for the entire year

Vintage continues to be my favorite format. Of course, I find the gameplay to be superior to all other formats, but more importantly, it’s because of our terrific community. Whether you come to every one of our events and Wednesday night meetups, or you sometimes show up as a change of pace, or you’re brand new to the format and have only played once or twice, you make Romancing The Stones great. We have some exciting plans for Season 3, and look forward to kicking things off at GP Austin weekend!


P.S. It’s obvious to me that in 2020, we should all be playing PO. If you refuse, then please for the love of god, register some Null Rods this year!