Today we will be taking a closer look at one of my favorite formats in Magic: Vintage. For this special occasion, I will be going over the deck I play the most, Tezzerator.
Tezzerator is an artifact focused combo deck, but don’t confuse it with the one trick pony combo decks from other formats. Tezzerator isn’t the kind of deck where you zoom towards your combo as fast as you can. It’s a thought-provoking control deck, with multiple ways to get the job done.
Here is the decklist I currently play:
3 Baleful Strix
1 Blightsteel Colossus
2 Goblin Welder
1 Notion Thief
Instants & Sorceries (18)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Dig Through Time
4 Force of Will
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Mana Drain
3 Mental Misstep
1 Time Walk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Black Lotus
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
3 Null Rod
1 Sol Ring
2 Dack Fayden
2 Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
3 Underground Sea
3 Volcanic Island
1 By Force
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
4 Ingot Chewer
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Pithing Needle
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Sulfur Elemental
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Yixlid Jailer
The primary goal of this deck is to get out Blightsteel Colossus, and swing in with its infectious claws. However unlike traditional combo decks, Tezzerator plays much more like a control midrange deck that has a combo finish. It can play both the long and the short game, and is very versatile in many different metas. Yes, sometimes the deck will occasionally get explosive turn one kills, but generally it is much slower than usually assumed (winning around turn 4 or 6). If your combo plan fails or your opponent is faster, Tezzerator has no issue switching into a control deck, where it can prevent opposing combos from happening, or wait for the perfect time to utilize its own combo. In most games expect to be playing out a longer match, where almost every spell you play has a huge impact. Unlike some other decks, Tezzerator is not always forgiving of your plays. However, if you can get past its difficulty to master, you will surely reap the rewards of playing one of Magic’s most unique combo decks.
Baleful Strix: A solid creature that not only draws us a card, but has deathtouch and flying which makes it a great deterrent. It also combos well with Goblin Welder and Tezzeret, and we can sac it to Daretti.
Blightsteel Colossus: The main win-con of the deck. It’s big, indestructible, and its infect + trample ends the game very quickly.
Goblin Welder: This card is great at getting out Blightsteel, and it is a nice way to come back if Blightsteel is somehow removed. It can also be used to get extra draws from Baleful Strix, recover Null Rod, or bring back one of our sideboard artifacts.
Notion Thief: A 3/1 with flash that is great for soaking up a surprise attack, which can also steal our opponent’s draws is awesome! They put in all the effort, and we get the payout.
Ancestral Recall: Drawing three cards for one mana is one of the most powerful things that you can do in Magic. It’s restricted for a reason 😉
Brainstorm: Great for tucking away cards we don’t need and protecting our hand from discard.
Demonic Tutor: Finds what we need when we need it. For the low cost of two mana we can get anything we desire instantly.
Dig Through Time: With its delve ability, this can become a slightly worse Demonic Tutor. But, digging seven cards deep is usually enough to get you what you need. Dig Through Time also allows us to get two cards at once, which is something that Demonic Tutor could never dream of doing.
Force of Will: Great for shutting down our opponent’s combos when they see us tapped out and they think they’re safe. It’s also extremely useful for protecting our own combo.
Gitaxian Probe: An essentially free spell that lets us scout out us opponent’s hand, fueling Dig Through Time in the process, and drawing us a card. It’s great for checking out any surprises an opponent might be holding.
Mana Drain: A strictly better version of Counterspell (since mana burn is no more). Great for countering big scary things, and gaining a bit of a profit off of them. Mana Drain can also be used in a pinch to counter your own Dig Through Time in response to an opponent’s own counter spell to gain a bunch of mana.
Mental Misstep: Essentially free and counters loads of things in the format. Need I say more?
Ponder: A good cantrip that gives us a choice. I’m still not 100% sure if this is better than Preordain.
Time Walk: Exactly the same reason as Ancestral Recall is played. If you can afford it (or your group allows proxies) play it. It’s restricted for a reason.
Tinker: A great way to get a surprise Blightsteel out really early. I’ve even used it on my first turn. I know I’ve said this several times, but it’s restricted for a reason, so if your deck profits from it, then play it.
Vampiric Tutor: A slightly worse version of Demonic Tutor, but Demonic Tutor is restricted so this is the next best thing (and it’s still great).
Yawgmoth’s Will: Gives flashback to every card in our graveyard. Great for when an opponent thinks we’re out of options.
Null Rod: This really shuts down a lot of decks, including this one! Make sure to play it only after you’re ready to start sacing your mana rocks and don’t need them anymore. This card is very very good against MUD in particular.
Every Other Artifact: These are here to help us gain mana quickly. The Moxen and Sol Ring are basically an extra land drop. Black Lotus, and Mana Crypt make lots of mana. But one can only be used once (unless we use Goblin Welder to Recycle it) and one slowly kills us. Finally, Crucible of Worlds lets us fetch over and over, bringing back cards like Tolarian Academy. If we want to be really mean we can wasteland every turn as well.
Dack Fayden: Greatest thief in the multiverse. Most of the time he will steal a Mox. But if your opponent has a similar strategy to us, then he can steal big things like Blightsteel Colossus. His draw two discard two is also useful for tossing things into our graveyard, so we can bring them back with Goblin Welder. Even though we won’t get much use out of it, his ultimate isn’t too shabby either.
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast: Daretti is probably my favorite card in the entire deck. He makes artifact tokens, which is useful by itself. But he can also use them and other artifacts we control to bombard our opponent’s artifacts and creatures. We generally don’t get to use his ultimate, but if we do, the game is probably over.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Jace is just an all-star and really needs no explanation. All of his abilities are powerful on their own, but together he’s a nightmare for our opponent’s to deal with.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: An auto include in this type of deck. So much so that the deck is named after him! He digs for artifacts, he animates them (or pumps them if its Baleful Strix), and he can even be an alternate win-con. What more do you want?
Ending the card choice breakdown (match up analysis below), I’ll go through an overview of my current sideboard. Keep in mind that your sideboard will need to change to fit your meta, so my choices may or may not work for you.
By Force: Great mass artifact destruction. It can set decks back a ton if they rely too much on mana rocks or other artifacts.
Grafdigger’s Cage: Great for decks that try to cast from the graveyard or library. This card kinda explains itself.
Ingot Chewer: A single red mana to destroy one of the most common types of cards you’ll come up against. It can also leave behind a 3/3 body if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
Mountain: Mainly here to get around nonbasic hate.
Nihil Spellbomb: Lets us clear out someone’s graveyard and can draw a card. Pretty self-explanatory.
Pithing Needle: Great for shutting down an opponent, especially in game two after we know what they’re playing.
Sulfur Elemental: Split second means nothing else can be added to the stack, instantly winning counterspell wars. The 3/2 for three mana isn’t bad either.
Tormod’s Crypt: Another way to clean out a graveyard. You wouldn’t believe how useful this can be (or maybe you do).
Combo – Generally other combo decks will be faster than us. However what we lose in speed, we gain in control and consistency. While many combo decks can and will out speed us, we have the control tools to keep them at bay. I would say that most combo matchups are generally even, however we may have a slight advantage.
Control – Because our deck plays a lot of control cards itself, we are more favored in control matchups than other combo decks. These games will come down to who has what answers, and how quickly we can assemble a win condition. On the other side of that, some games may even come down to who can out tempo the other in a grind fest. In spite of this, control match ups can still be really tough, especially if our opponent is experienced. It is also important to remember that control decks want the game to go on as long as possible. They thrive in the late game, and the longer you wait to attempt your combo, the higher the chances of losing to a Jace, or similar win con. Just be sure that you have the proper protection in place in case your opponent has a surprise counter.
Aggro – While there are not a huge variety of aggro decks in the meta right now besides Shops, the matches can sometimes be rough. It really comes down to how quickly we can assemble the combo and how many answers we get. The first turns of the game are crucial in these match ups, and will typically determine the outcome of the game. It is important to note that aggro decks typically weigh light on answer spells, so we don’t have to worry as much about our combo being disrupted. But we do have to worry about being out sped. This match up is about even, but possibly a little disfavored depending on your list. On another note, many players of our deck choose to pack the sideboard with artifact hate. Which means after sideboarding against Shops, this matchup can become a lot easier.
Midrange – Midrange will always be an interesting match up. It really depends on what both players’ opening hands look like. Sometimes the game will be a super long grind fest, and other times one or the other deck will quickly steal a win. Since both our deck and midrange strategies run many answers and high value threats this matchup can really come down to player experience, sideboard slots, and draws. However many midrange decks can struggle against win conditions like ours. Additionally, since midrange strategies like to spread out their spell variety very thinly, it may become difficult for them to get the answers they need fast enough to deal with us. Yes, they may be putting pressure on us with large creatures and card advantage, but that doesn’t mean much if they can’t deal with our main threat. So if we are able to assemble our win condition, the game is basically in the bag.
Tempo – Tempo is another interesting matchup. If we can get them off their rhythm, then we have a good chance to pull a win out. I believe it is best to play an aggressive control strategy at first, countering their tempo threats, and then switch to assembling the combo quickly, after they have run out of gas. Which is likely inevitable if the game goes on for long enough, because of the Xerox structure of tempo decks (low land count, high amount of filter spells). Generally, Tempo strategies look to win in the mid game, and try to get ahead as quickly as possible early on, so if we can prevent this from happening the game is in our hands. But depending on the deck this can be a challenging matchup.
Overall, Tezzerator is a nice mixture of combo and control. It’s a deck that has a clear goal without needing to run blindly towards its combo, and for that reason, it’s my favorite deck in the format.
But what do you think? Is Tezzerator deserving of our first ever Vintage deck breakdown? How do you think this decklist holds up? Are you interested in seeing more Vintage decks in the future? As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to say something in the comments section below.