One of the first Standard decks I ever played was a Vengevine deck. Back when I started in Shards of Alara-Zendikar Standard, I grinded the PTQ circuit with a Naya brew featuring Noble Hierarch into Fauna Shaman to pitch Vengevine for value, before following up with Bloodbraid Elf to trigger cascade and get back Vengevines. It was a really cool deck that had a lot of game, and I had a lot of fun with it. But after rotation in Standard and its virtual banning in Legacy vis-à-vis Survival of the Fittest, Vengevine was mostly forgotten about at the top tables.
Until now. The 'Vine is back, and in a big way.
Jacob Nagro took this deck to the Top 16 of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, and missed a win-and-in for the Top 4. With that event being teams it's impossible to know how Jacob himself did, other players have been putting up results with the deck as well. It's here to stay.
The biggest thing pushing this deck now is Stitcher's Supplier. The overlooked Core Set 2019 card does everything this deck wants – it puts cards in the graveyard, it blocks for value and puts more cards in the graveyard, and it costs one mana to help easily trigger Vengevine. If that's all it did, it would be a great addition to the deck, but there's actually more – it's also a Zombie, which makes casting Gravecrawler from the 'yard very easy.
The deck essentially has two halves: the enablers and the payoffs. The biggest payoffs is obviously Vengevine, but it doesn't end there. Bridge from Below allows you to do some truly silly things, and Gravecrawler and Bloodghast add even more recursion into the deck. Throw in Goblin Bushwhacker, and the deck can put together the most broken starts in the format.
The other half is the enablers. Supplier is great, Insolent Neonate does it all from triggering Vengevine to pitching Vengevine to discarding Bridge from Below and immediately making a Zombie, and the x-cost creatures in Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista can be played for value or cast for zero to freely trigger Vengevine or Bridge. And Faithless Looting, of course, is as broken here as it is anywhere else – at a tournament last weekend I Looted on turn one, discarded two Bridges, cast two zero-drop creatures and made four Zombies. The next turn I kicked a Bushwhacker and attacked for 14 on turn two, and then kicked another Bushwhacker and turn three to finish things off.
The other card to talk about is Greater Gargadon. Some people are playing Viscera Seer in this spot instead, but I can't agree with that. Gargadon, once suspended, is impossible to interact with, whereas Seer can eat a removal spell and then never do the job it's in the deck to do, which is sacrifice creatures for value – you can loop casting Gravecrawlers once you have a sac outlet, and Hangarback can also be sacrificed for value – or you can use it to protect from removal. Path to Exile on Vengevine? Actually, I'll sacrifice it instead and bring it back on my next turn. Anger of the Gods to exile my board? Actually, I'll just sacrifice them all for value and they'll be back around again. Gargadon offers the deck incredible amounts of flexibility, and not to mention it comes attached to a nine-power hasty body, which comes up quite often – remember, Gargadon coming off suspend counts as casting it and can be done at instant speed, which means you can do thinks like end-step Gargadon after a board wipe or you can let a Cryptic Command resolve to tap your team, and then sacrifice creatures to put in a hasty Gargadon to attack with. If you want to really get tricky, you can play a creature pre-combat and then walk into Cryptic, knowing that after your team is tapped you'll just sacrifice Vengevines to Gargadon and then cast it, bringing Vengevines back as the second creature spell of the turn and giving you tons of power to attack with, all generated in the beginning of combat after a Cryptic Command. That's the kind percentage points Viscera Seer just can't provide.
Of course, the deck is not perfect. It has a high number of hands that just do nothing; when this deck draws poorly, it draws really poorly. I'm sure there's a better version out there we just haven't decided on – after playing it nonstop for a week I'm almost wishing for a Burning Inquiry or two to increase the velocity. If I could guarantee a Faithless Looting in every opening hand, I'd call this the best deck in the format. Finding more ways to get similar effects into the deck would go a long way, and I think paying two mana for Cathartic Reunion may just be too expensive.
Anyway, the deck as it stands now is still incredibly powerful, and a real contender even in our current high-powered Modern format. It's a new puzzle to figure out every time you draw an opening hand, and it's a fun puzzle to solve.
Thanks for reading,