Vintage Artist Constructed

I feel like there are a bajillion formats to play in Magic now. When I started playing you pretty much had only a few ways to play to choose from. Eventually Type 2 became Standard, and Type 1 became Vintage, and Type 1.5 became Legacy. Then came Elder Dragon Highlander, which got re-branded as Commander, and Modern, and Archenemy, and Planar Magic, and Brawl, and etc… there are so many choices now on how to play the game. I couldn’t even try to name them all so I took a quick trip to Wikipedia and it tells us that there are over 40 separate formats.

One format that I noticed was missing just so happens to be my personal favorite to play, Vintage Artist Constructed! Vintage Artist Constructed, or VAC for short, is a format where you pick an artist that has illustrated work on playable/format legal Magic cards.  With those cards you have to construct a 60 card deck, and 15 card sideboard, using only cards that were illustrated by the chosen artist, including the basic lands. As the name of the format implies, it uses the Vintage constructed card pool, with its banned and restricted lists. This means you have almost every Magic card in the history of the game to build with, but with the awesome limitation of just 1 artist to out of the hundreds that have done work for magic.

I found out about VAC around 3 years ago. I saw a post on twitter talking about building a deck around a singular artist. I loved that idea so I started with one of my favorite Magic artists, Rebecca Guay; she has a solid amount of cards including powerhouses like Bitterblossom. At the time though she only had 2 basic lands, a Plains and a Mountain, which were promos done for the APAC series. Unfortunately they were 10-20 US dollars a piece and there weren’t that many on the market so it was next to impossible to build a full deck.

So I jumped to another favorite artist of mine, Wayne Reynolds. There are so many good cards that Reynolds has done including some amazing removal like Dreadbore and Terminate. Luckily Wayne did a Swamp and a Mountain as a diptych, the 2 paintings coming together to make one larger image, in Lorwyn and he has a land that taps for both Black and Red with Auntie’s Hovel.

Lorwyn Swamp and Mountain art by Wayne Reynolds

Lorwyn Swamp and Mountain art by Wayne Reynolds

With that in mind I began brewing. Unfortunately all of Reynold’s good Artifact destruction is in White and Green so I wouldn’t have access to that without playing Jungle Shrine, the Naya tri-colored land from Shards of Alara, which isn’t dependable enough to mix it in there. So that meant playing fast to outrace any decks playing artifact strategies like Christopher Moeller’s Jitte and Mark Tedin’s Ring of Gix/Winter Orb combo deck. Auntie’s Hovel rewarded playing goblin cards and I really liked the idea of playing a deck that played with cards working together so I started looking at all of Wayne’s goblin cards. Boy, I was not disappointed. Goblin Arsonist, Arms Dealer, Marsh Flitter, Ib Halfheart, Mad Auntie, Facevaulter, Warren Pilferers, all played well with one another in a synergistic Goblin build. (Wayne Reynolds BR Decklist)

It was so much fun playing this deck against my friend’s WBG Moeller deck. Then in 2016, I was lucky enough to be in Minnesota for work when Mike “VorthosMike” Linnemann, one of the pioneers for the format, was running his annual charity event, that was dubbed the Pupp-a-thon that year, which included a VAC side event. There were so many decks there I had never even thought of; though I did play against VorthosMike’s BR Aggro Reynold’s build. UB Warren Mahy, Mono-Blue Mark Tedin, U-Colorless Jason Felix, WB Steven Belledin are just the decks I remember seeing. Getting to meet so many people as enthusiastic about the format as I was, to play decks with their favorite artists and to see how the decks interacted was the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in a long while.

Pupp-a-thon Playmat art by  Titus Lunter  and  Suzanne Helmigh

Pupp-a-thon Playmat art by Titus Lunter and Suzanne Helmigh

I didn’t get the chance to play in a VAC event until the following June when I was helping Mike set up the first ever Magic Art Show in Vegas 2017. Mike and I were so busy with the show we got them to hold the event in the hallway just outside the room the show was held in. By then I had also built WR Rebecca Guay thanks to Commander 2016 printing all 5 basics with her art, Mono-Red Greg StaplesAggro, and Clint Cearley Mono-White Brisela Voltron. I decided to play my BR Reynolds, “We Be Goblins”, deck and I won first place, admittedly with tie-breakers. I played against WU Christopher Moeller, Mono-Green Darrell Riche, and my own mono-Red Staples deck as I let another player borrow it so they could play in the event.

Here are the decklists:
Clint Cearley Mono-White
Rebecca Guay WR
Greg Staples Mono-Red

That summer I decided to run a VAC event at Gencon 2017. My friends and I brought 5 decks with us to help get the event off the ground and luckily we had 8 people show up so we could run a full pod. @alteredcity on twitter ended taking home the win with his Chippy Isochron Sceptar/Orim Chant* deck (remember what I said earlier about Artifact strategies), and with his win came the original sketch for Safehold Sentry by William O’Connor.

Since then I’ve played VAC every opportunity that I have and luckily there’s usually at least one other person at every event who’s up to play a little VAC. At Illuxcon I even got to see Ryan Pancoast playing a deck of his own cards against Donald Caltrider playing a Ryan Pancoast GW list as well. You can read about his deck here and about his game with Ryan here.

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It’s hard to tell you why Vintage Artist Constructed is so awesome. Is it picking through your favorite artists or cards to try and build a deck around? Sure. Is it getting frustrated when your pick doesn’t have the basic lands to build a VAC deck? That is definitely part of the journey. That moment where you find an artist who has all the pieces and a deck comes together? Priceless. I love all of those things, but the part of VAC I love the most has to be the community. I love the game of Magic: The Gathering but getting to meet players that are as enthusiastic about the artists and MTG art culture as I am has been so much fun.
Which is why I am so thrilled that TokyoMTGis working on building that community even larger. TokyoMTG is big on art and what better fit is there than Vintage Artist Constructed? TokyoMTG will have decks on hand for those interested in trying the format out and if there’s enough interest tournaments are a possibility. So head into the store and try it out and I really hope this gets you inspired to take a crack at brewing your own VAC deck.

If you remember earlier I mentioned that there was a format missing from the wikipedia page of Magic: The Gathering formats. That has now been fixed.

Some great links for VAC articles and decks:

Mike Linnemann State of the Format
Mike Linneman Guilds of Ravnica Vintage Artist Constructed
Donny Caltrider Vintage Artist Construced Mono-Blue Randy Gallegos
Donny Caltrider Vintage Artist Constructed Matt Cavotta Mono-Red
Vintage Artist Constructed Facebook Group