On my latest Sunday stream, I tried out Vintage again with Survival of the Fittest. If you missed it, the raw video will be on my YouTube channel—check it out here.

I know the obvious question: “Why Survival when Oath exists?” One reason is that Survival, though nerfed by similar hate pieces like Grafdigger’s Cage and Containment Priest, still works as a tutor for a toolbox of creatures and can end the game quickly with Vengevine. I have the ability to dig out a Reclamation Sage or Manglehorn to fight back against some of this hate and still be able to set up a strong turn ending in multiple Vines returning to the field. Basking Rootwalla coming off madness will still get around Priest and Cage which is a nice add on.

Here is the list I ran on Sunday:

BUG Survival

Lands (16)
Bayou
Forest
Island
Mana Confluence
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Strip Mine
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Wasteland

Creatures (16)
Basking Rootwalla
Deathrite Shaman
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Manglehorn
Notion Thief
Ramunap Excavator
Reclamation Sage
Vendilion Clique
Vengevine

Spells (28)
Abrupt Decay
Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Brainstorm
Demonic Tutor
Dig Through Time
Flusterstorm
Force of Will
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mental Misstep
Mindbreak Trap
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Ponder
Preordain
Survival of the Fittest
Treasure Cruise
Sideboard (15)
Energy Flux
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mindbreak Trap
Nature’s Claim
Null Rod
Tormod’s Crypt
Yixlid Jailer

Most everything here is fairly standard for vintage—Ancestral Recall, Moxen, Black Lotus, Dig Through Time, etc. I will keep the card discussion limited to Survival of the Fittest and what options that we have when running the deck through hate and closing games quickly with the combo.

Survival Package

Survival of the Fittest gives us access to a toolbox of creatures. Basking Rootwalla is a free discard option, and being able to discard additional copies of Deathrite Shaman and Leovold, Emissary of Trest also helps feed the engine.

Manglehorn is our first option for the toolbox to destroy hate cards like Grafdigger’s Cage, answer any of the creatures out of Workshop decks, and  shut down artifact based combo such as Paradoxical Outcome.

Notion Thief is a great way to hate on Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Ancestral Recall, Dack Fayden, Jace, the Mind Sculptor etc. With enough mana we can not only tutor in response to a draw spell or ability but we can also cast Thief thanks to flash.

Ramunap Excavator is here as a potential low resource game closer. When paired with Wasteland or Strip Mine we can limit the mana our opponent has access to as well as ensure that we are making land drops and advancing our board.

Vendilion Clique is one of the cards I am not sold on, though having flying is relevant if we need to block something like Delver of Secrets, Griselbrand or get damage through against Shops in a pinch.

To close out the Survival Package we have Basking Rootwalla which pitches “for free” to Survival and Vengevine which can return to the battlefield and help us get aggressive to close out a game. These are the fairly well known pieces to the Survival decks that dominated in Legacy up until the eventual banning.

Sideboard

You see mostly Dredge hate sprinkled through the sideboard, because of the machine that Dredge is when Bazaar of Baghdad gets going.

Grafdigger’s Cage heads up the graveyard hate because it also helps against decks like Oath of Druids. Cage allows us the ability to keep Bloodghast in the graveyard while also shutting down Cabal Therapy and Dread Return flashback.

Tormod’s Crypt is a very difficult piece hate card for Dredge to fight through when they are attempting to fill their graveyard and out-value an opponent. It allows us to force them into overextending and being able to dump important cards like Bridge from Below, Bloodghast, and [casthaven]Dread Return[/casthaven] along with its targets.

Our last piece of graveyard hate is Yixlid Jailer, which allows us a wrench for our toolbox to hopefully throw into the well oiled gears of Bazaar.

Most of the rest of the sideboard is geared towards beating Workshops. Being the most popular deck as of late, this felt really important. While we do have Abrupt Decay and a pair of toolbox answers it certainly helps to skew against the most popular deck in the format.

Energy Flux leads up the hate for this match up. Very rarely can shops fight through the two mana upkeep cost that Flux provides as Workshop itself cannot actually pay for the costs.

Nature’s Claim is basically an answer all to every card that they run in their deck allowing us an answer to their heavy mana threats like Precursor Golem and the like.

Null Rod does well to shut down their artifact mana and keeps their Walking Ballista and Ratchet Bomb from answering our board or getting too out of control.

Initial Thoughts

After running this through a league and seeing a couple of matchups that I didn’t quite expect—DPS, Gift Storms port Grapeshot kill—I will say that I wasn’t as happy with the list as I initially was. Several cards felt off, such as Force of Will, Vendilion Clique etc. I feel as though the deck needs to be proactive with cards like Thoughtseize, additional mana sources, and more actual creatures.

Based on this, I updated the deck and will be testing this list in the future:

BUG Survival Updated

Lands (17)
Bayou
Forest
Island
Mana Confluence
Misty Rainforest
Strip Mine
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland

Creatures (17)
Basking Rootwalla
Deathrite Shaman
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Manglehorn
Notion Thief
Ramunap Excavator
Reclamation Sage
Vengevine

Spells (26)
Abrupt Decay
Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Brainstorm
Demonic Tutor
Dig Through Time
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mental Misstep
Mindbreak Trap
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Ponder
Preordain
Survival of the Fittest
Thoughtseize
Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mindbreak Trap
Nature’s Claim
Null Rod
Tormod’s Crypt
Yixlid Jailer

If anyone has an idea for a brew that they would like to see, I will gladly take requests and challenges on twitter or in email at [email protected]

Aaron Gazzaniga works part time at a game store and in his off time has been an avid magic player/brewer since 2003. Having begun in Odyssey Standard Block and always favoring control and prison style decks, we come to this moment in time where Aaron finally gets to talk about and share his ideas. If you want to contact Aaron tweet @aarongazzaniga

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