Vintage Turbo Vault

The Evolution of Turbo Vault

Turbo Vault in Vintage

Author: Nico Bohny

Vintage is like a slumbering bear, gently sleeping through its winters. Everything stays how it is for a full year, and the bear is satisfied as a result, giving in to his dreams of a more or less frozen metagame, until something rumbles in his caves, and he sluggishly wakes up from his hibernation. And then, the bear finds out that a new overpowered summer set has been released, and even things in the Vintage bear world are about to change.

Hold on, wait?! What are you talking about?! I’ve never heard about a format or a bear called Vintage, and I cannot find it on Magic Arena either. Are you making up stuff?

What is the Vintage Format?

Vintage is a constructed format in which you can play almost any Magic card ever printed. Most of them as a 4-of, the more powerful ones (e.g. Black Lotus) only as a 1-of. The format is quite expensive to buy into considering real cards, as most of the competitive decks cost way over $10’000, but on Magic Online, you can basically build every deck for a few hundred bucks.

Even though people assume, due to the mightiest of all cards ever printed, Vintage is the fastest and most degenerate format around, but games tend to take more turns than in Modern nowadays.

Vintage is very challenging and offers a lot of in-game depth, metagaming as well as lots and lots of fun. I also like that you can’t find many sideboard guides for most decks.

Traditionally, there are three archetypes in Vintage:

Vintage is a great format. One of my absolute favorites.

Today I want to write about a Vintage deck that I’ve been working on for over a year now and might even have been the deck with the highest win rate in tournaments on Magic Online in the year of 2023.

The Doomsday Era

We start our journey right before and after the release of Modern Horizons 2. The Vintage metagame has been pretty stable over the last years, and even though there were lots of viable decks being played, Doomsday was the deck to beat and had the highest win rate among experienced players.

I hated to play against Doomsday as the deck was really miserable to play against, sometimes killing you on turn 1 backed up by countermagic, sometimes they grinded you out in the long game.

But with Modern Horizons 2 and the printing of Urza’s Saga, the metagame landscape slowly started to change by a fair deal. While obviously being great against countermagic, Saga also had the power level to win games on its own while also empowering a toolbox of cheap artifacts, namely Manifold Key, which could immediately end the game combined with Time Vault.

Manifold Key TSR
Time Vault LEB

Urza’s Workshop decks and Paradoxical Outcome decks quickly added Saga to their ranks, but soon after, almost every deck playing the full suite of 5 Moxen joined in. Urza’s Saga was really strong against Doomsday, but was not enough to push it from its throne.

Since I started being frustrated losing to Doomsday over and over again, I tried to build a deck with a good matchup against Doomsday.

I knew I needed Urza’s Saga and countermagic to compete, and since I really wanted to optimize Time Vault and Manifold Key, I tinkered around with Goblin Engineer as the glue to hold it all together.

Strong First Turbo V

While my first version of the deck had many weaknesses, the main plan felt very powerful. The deck fitted my play style, and on the back of Urza’s Saga, Flusterstorm and Angel’s Grace, I finally started beating Doomsday.

Over and over again.

Now all I needed was tuning the deck against the rest of the metagame. Goblin Enineer, while being an absolute powerhouse with Lurrus and in longer games, started feeling clunky in other matchups, especially in multiples, and without the opportunity of being pitched to Force of Will, I decided to go down to three and then two copies.

Goblin Engineer TSR

Paradoxical Outcome started to grow on me as a powerful plan B, since you could just pitch it to Force of Will when you didn’t need it, and with Outcome, I started adding a bigger toolbox, also combining Manifold Keys with Sensei’s Divining Top as a slow grindy card advantage machine.

The quantity of artifacts also enabled Thoughtcast as an additional draw engine, and the deck also started against the other decks in the format.

Lord of the Rings introduced several decent Vintage cards. And while the impact was not on the same page as other standard-illegal summer sets, The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters shook up the format quite a bit.

The first obvious attempt to break The One Ring was combining it with Urza’s Workshop, which quickly prompted Hullbreacher to enter the fray, and in the end, the metagame adapted in a way which was not all that different from the landscape before.

Jewel Shops powered by The One Ring earned its spot in the metagame, and people reacted by adding Null Rods and Collector Ouphes to their sideboards or even maindecks again.

It took some additional time, until Vintage players discovered another true gem in Lorien Revealed, finally enabling a functional manabase with Urza’s Saga, offcolor Moxen and Wasteland.

After different Lurrus shells featuring Lorien, Saga and Wasteland, UB Lurrus was the deck that emerged as the clear fan favorite of the pack.

The One Ring LTR

But what about Turbo Vault?

The deck still remained viable but was confronted with two main problems:

  1. First, with Null Rod effects on the rise, it needed a change. But also, it needed a gameplan against the new deck to beat. Cutting Seat of the Synod and Thoughtcast seemed like an easy first step to limit the power of Null Rod, and the Lorien Revealed package also seemed like an easy conclusion to the deck.
  2. By losing our five color lands, we needed to limit our colors. Oswald Fiddlebender offered an alternative path to find Turbo Vault, while also presenting an opportunity to run silver bullets like Portable Hole against Null Rods. And because Balance was still an absolute powerhouse in the deck, I decided to cut red entirely for white cards.

The Modern Horizons 3 Era

And here we are, right after the release of MH3. And as usual, the set delivers some sparkling new toys, even for us Vintage players.

Vexing Bauble being the frontrunner, being able to completely shut down decks and draws that rely on Moxen and Forces. The card even reanimated an old archetype, Turbo Lands, which both is immune to Vexing Bauble and uses it very well.

Then, also Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student seems to maintain a lot of potential, maybe giving us kind of a blue (and thus pitchable) Ragavan.

Psychic Frog is a value engine that’s hard to turn down and seems to be a crowd favorite so far, sneaking into several UB Lurrus lists, and Sink into Stupor works very well in Jewels Shop, delivering a blue mana source which can deal with problematic threats as well as being another fodder card for Force of Will.

Disruptor Flute has already seen some play in Prison Shop decks, and Witch Enchanter seems like a strict upgrade to Basic Plains in Mono White Initiative.

Psychic Frog MH3

Considering Turbo Vault you should up your count of Portable Hole to be able to beat Vexing Bauble, and while doing so, I would probably move back to a faster version with more Paradoxical Outcome and more Mox Opals.


Vexing Bauble MH3

But honestly, I would just wait until the dust has settled, Vexing Bauble gets a restriction and the new metagame evolves, since then you can properly adjust the strategy.

You can still tune the deck to be a huge favorite against most decks on the play by turning up the tempo of the deck, but Bauble makes games on the draw so awkward that you might just find better alternatives for the moment.

What will happen next?

My guess is that Vexing Bauble will see a restriction anytime soon.

It just leads to unfun gameplay and even more emphasis on winning the die roll, which is already kind of a problem in a fast format like Vintage. Also, it completely shuts down Bazaar of Baghdad decks, which I don’t think is necessary.

Then, the next step is probably the return to the old metagame with minor changes like the addition of Spelllands in some decks and the addition of the then hopefully restricted Vexing Bauble in most decks.

And then, I hope that Urza’s Saga will get the next restriction.

And while there are many possibilities to interact with Urza’s Saga, its power level just seems too way too high at the moment.

Turbo Vault Version 3


As you can see, the Vintage bear is wide awake at the moment. For the next few weeks until a new ban & restricted announcement drops and some additional things might change.

But then, things will settle.

The metagame will adjust.

And the bear will go back to sleep.

Winter is coming.

If you want to see every iteration of the deck I played, you can find all my Turbo Vault lists I played on Magic Online here!

You can find me and my stuff on YouTube, Twitter and Twitch, be sure to catch up and say hi:

About the Author

Nico Bohny is a retired Pro Player from Switzerland. His impressive resume contains of two PT top 8’s, 2 Grand Prix Top 8’s and a win with the Swiss national team at Worlds 2007, where they beat Austria in the finals. He’s a Vintage aficionado and skilled Limited player.

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