Good morning everyone! I’m back with another edition of The Mirror Gallery featuring the Vintage Artist Constructed (VAC) format, or #mtgVAC. For those of you that missed my last article, here are some quick details on how the format began and has evolved.

The Background: Condensed, Now with New Decks

The format was created by Joshua Krause of Original Magic Art and Vorthos Mike Linnemann, Magic Art Show curator and writer over at CoolStuffInc. This 60 card, Vintage-legal format where every card must be illustrated by the same artist, including basic lands, was the brainchild product of their involvement in the Magic art community

The Loxodon in the room is the requirement of basic lands, as this is what severely limits the format and also makes it great. As each set comes out, I find myself scrolling to the bottom of the spoiler to see who may have gotten new basics. Just as a Modern or Commander player examines a card list for new ideas, so too does the VAC player. They’re just looking at a different part of the card.

To get started with Vintage Artist Constructed it only takes three questions:

  • Step 1: Do you have a favorite artist?
  • Step 2: Do they have basic lands?
  • Step 3: Do they have playable cards in those colors?

Ask yourself these questions. You can check out my past articles, those by Mike Linnemann, and the Vintage Artist Constructed Facebook group for more inspiration. Guilds of Ravnica has changed the format considerably yet again, and there are so many fantastic options of decks to build and play.

“So Donny, what decks do you play?”

Last time we looked at my Mono-Blue Randy Gallegos deck, and some of the fun interactions between his different cards. This was the first deck I “brewed” using nothing more than Gatherer and (I now use Scryfall), looking for playables and cards relationships.

The deck we are looking at today, however, was born from a Mike Linnemann article from a year ago, where at the end he posted several artists that may be on the cusp of having something playable. I own a few pieces of Ryan Pancoast’s work, including several color studies and a final painting, so I was immediately drawn to trying to put this together. It took a few weeks but I picked up all the cards and have been playing it regularly for the last few months. In his latest article, Mike revisited this deck for Guilds of Ravnica, a set that takes this deck from fringe playable to very possibly Tier I with a single card.

But why write about it now? As this article comes out I will be at Illuxcon with Ryan, and a few months ago we decided we would play our versions of his VAC deck against one another. A mirror match; an Art vs. Artist showdown. That recap will be forthcoming, but I had to start by somewhere to make sure I was ready. Let’s have a look inside and break my deck down.

The Deck

Donny Caltrider’s GW Pancoast

Creatures (27)
Dryad Militant
Mayor of Avabruck
Lambholt Pacifist
Deadeye Harpooner
Mistcutter Hydra
Knight of Autumn
Ranger of Eos
Ripjaw Raptor

Spells (10)
Titanic Growth
Windborne Charge
Prey Upon
Lands (23)
11 Plains
Khalni Garden

Sideboard (15)
Creeping Corrosion
Wear // Tear
Leyline of Sanctity
Glimmerpoint Stag
Outland Colossus

The Lands

Ryan’s first commission for Magic was this Plains originally commissioned for M10. The two basic lands that make this deck possibly are a large part of why I was so drawn to build it. They are some of my favorite lands in all of Magic, and being able to play them in foil is an absolute treat when it comes to Vintage Artist Constructed.

Khalni Garden makes a chump blocker and doesn’t slow you down (that much) in a format that only has a medium percentage of aggressive decks. This could find its way out of the deck if we needed to start going faster, but for now having the ground coverage (ha!) is worth it.

The Meat & Potatoes

New tech. In a format that can be dominated by Umezawa’s Jitte and Sword of Anything and Whatever, I think the “Destroy Target Artifact” will be this dryad’s claim to fame. Even without that ability, a three-mana 2/1 that gains four life or simple 4/3 are both things this beatdown deck wants. Great card, great art, and very possibly a format game changer.

I didn’t initially play this card, opting for Young Wolf instead. But with the addition of Knight of Autumn, this seems more appropriate to the flavor of this deck and is a fine card. It is the only card I play in the deck that is not foiled. Sad face.

Out to Lunch. This card was the tipping point that made me initially go all-in on this deck. It’s just good: a 4/5 for four that grabs you a bit of card advantage is exactly what this deck wants, plus the art is downright incredible. A tasty morsel indeed.

It wouldn’t be a Pancoast deck without a bit of Innistrad humans/werewolves. The boost to the other humans in this deck from Mayor of Avabruck is handy, and Lambholt Pacifist is a beater that can be turned on by a turn three Knight of Autumn.

Friends Forever. This pair is one of the things that really make this deck sing. Play Ranger on turn four, find two Hydras. Play Hydras on Turn five and six, get in where you can, and then Windborne Charge on Turn seven for what is usually a win. Scary fast and scary good.

It might not be the best, but we work with what we have. Deadeye Harpooner is a great way to kill something that’s killing you. Prey Upon, even at sorcery speed, can do the same or clear the ground for a big attack.

Get Big. Punching through damage is how this deck wins, and this is how you get there. An early Titanic Growth (or two) on an unchecked creature puts you well ahead, and also keeps you in the game if you need to kill something on their side before it kills you. Windborne Charge being a sorcery is less good, but as I said above a pair of flying, haste, uncounterable, and pro-blue Mistcutter Hydras will win games.


The sideboard for this deck gives you just about everything you could ask for when it comes to surviving in the Wild West that is Vintage Artist Constructed.

If you’re going to win at VAC, you need to be able to deal with artifacts. All of them. This card does that really well. Case closed.

The thing I said about artifacts above? Also true of enchantments. You’re gonna feel bad if you just lose to Parallax Wave. Or Sulfuric Vortex. Or The Antiquities War. Which will happen if you don’t blow them up.

In the right matchup and because of the lack of enchantment removal, sometimes this card can just win you the game. I only play two copies here, but a third copy could definitely be justifiable.

Sometimes you just need to get rid of something temporarily to swing in for the win, and Glimmerpoint Stag does just that. It also lets you blink a Knight of Autumn, Ranger of Eos, or Deadeye Harpooner to grab some extra value.

I just added this into my sideboard as I was almost never boarding in Diregraf Escort. If the game turns into a creature for creature battle, this guy can bring it home.

Cards to Consider

When Ryan painted Arena Rector for Battlebond, there were a few of us, myself included, that saw the Vintage Artist Constructed writing on the wall. If he were to get a Planeswalker of any color his deck immediately becomes more viable. He got that planeswalker in Saheeli, the Gifted, but the synergy is just not there with the rest of the deck. At least not yet. With a different planeswalker the entire deck changes, and probably levels the list up yet again.

When first playing this deck I tried to live the dream of killing someone via Infect with a Titanic Growth’d or Windborne Charge’d pair of Plague Myrs. This little guy usually draws a kill spell, but has since lost his spot in this deck in favor of a more cohesive curve.

This card could very possibly make the maindeck someday, and has some synergy with other Cards to Consider like Unruly Mob. But for now in most matchups it’s counterproductive to straight beating face, and thus stays sidelined. For what it’s worth, it’s also not available in foil, and in all honesty I have been less inclined to try it because of this.

About the Artist:  Ryan Pancoast

I’ve written two different articles about Ryan Pancoast and his work for Magic. You can read them here and here.

To prevent repeating myself, I’d encourage you to browse these two articles and learn more about this artist and his work both for and outside of Magic. If you couldn’t already tell he is a personal favorite of mine, and I look forward to exploring the other pieces of his in my collection in the coming months.

VAC Original Art

Ryan only has a handful of his original paintings commissioned for Magic left in his webstore, and almost all of his new work is sold once it is officially previewed. These four, plus the original for Sparring Mummy from Amonkhet, are all still available for purchase directly from the artist. Follow the link for prices and specifics, and remember, you can’t go wrong with a Pancoast.

He has also started to “crack open the vault” on occasion, and for that you need to stay tuned to his Twitter and the MTG Art Market

This time around we saw him offer a color study, the original thumbnails for Azor, and a pair of sketches for his Glimmerpoint Stag. What will be next and when? You’ll just have to keep an eye out.

Wrapping Up

Next time, the plan is to recap all things Illuxcon 11, from artists to art to panels and events. In the event there isn’t enough time to hash everything out between now and then, rest assured I’ll have something else on brand with the Magic art content you’ve come to expect over the last six months. In that vein, if there is anything you’d like me to talk about, or if you have ideas for me to explore, please let me know on Twitter!

Remember, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, including #mtgVAC decks, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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