Brassman's right, Scourge was chosen because it was the last set with old-bordered cards.
I loved playing with old-bordered cards. I loved when the only cards were old-bordered cards, and we got to complain about things like 'summon' being removed post Urza's Legacy. We didn't know better. Back then I thought it was a major piece of flavor that had disappeared.
With every set that sees print now, there are more and more old-bordered cards that get pushed out of Vintage decks. Cutting Tangle Wires from my Shop deck felt awful. Silver bordered cards were rare when I played Vintage back in 2003. Now they're everywhere, slowly knocking out the last holdouts.
Can we talk for a second about how awful the silver border is for artifacts? Of all the things that were done with the 8th Edition update, this was the most offensive. Do those of you who were playing back then remember how difficult it was to quickly tell the difference between artifacts and white cards in Mirrodin, and how Wizards had to go back, and make the color differentiation between the two more noticeable? The brown artifacts weren't confused for anything else. We knew what they were. Beyond that, the silver makes literally all the art look washed out. Consider the following:
This art is absolutely magnificent. It's legitimately great. How many of us have really spent time appreciating that, given that it looks like this:
You had one of the very best artists that Magic has ever had do a painting that's an absolute home run. And most of us never really appreciated it, because it looks dull, on behalf of the ridiculous frame that they've thrown on it.
Look at the promo version, and tell me that you don't see the art better here, that the art isn't complemented better by the border here:
This is small, and yet it's one of the unconscious things that affects how we see the game. The cards, the art, the text, the set symbols, they should all work together to form something truly beautiful, unique, and easily distinguished from other card games.
Here's a fun example, stolen in part from Greg Fenton.
Check out these six images:
Can you easily identify which ones are Magic art? Are any of them? Are all of them?
If someone can't identify your game from someone else's game, isn't that a problem? Why are you different, and why should I want to spend money with you? If the art didn't matter, and it was all about the functionality of the cards, then the art could be removed entirely. But how exciting would Magic be if you were just playing cards that had nothing but text? The art clearly adds something, in the positive instances. In the bad ones, it's able to detract. Cleanse your palate with the following images:
Distinct styles, artists with a little breathing room, a unique touch that feels like Magic.
Very few people currently playing actually played 'Old School' when it was just Magic, so part of the selling point of Classic was that it was going to appeal to more players. I can relate to Old School, but it still feels somewhat foreign to me. I was talking to a friend on Wednesday about old decks, and we spoke about many of the decks that I think players around my age feel a great sense of nostalgia for. If money wasn't a factor, I'd happily buy and build tricked out versions of all the following decks:
I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting.
No 8th Edition frames, virtually no digital art, no ridiculous art direction that makes everything look like it's from World of Warcraft, like two of the six images I posted first.
I remember playing Chevy Blue without sleeves, because the whole deck was like $20. That deck may still be under $50 to build.
To get back on point, there's a purity to the game that was lost slowly, chipped away at, beginning in 1999, culminating in the change of the card frame in 2003. Wizards starting testing cards before releasing them was a smart move (this was something that should have always been done, but it led to a lot of mistake printings that I think we all love, lest we wouldn't have invested in, or played Vintage), but I loved the crazy power levels of cards back then, and Masques block was a steep drop-off from Urza's block. And the 8th Edition frame just thrust a dagger in my heart. I know some people swear they like that frame better than the original, but I think they're all nuts. The original frame is superior. This is still the same company. They are capable of producing something legitimately beautiful, something cohesive, where all the various parts feel like they complement the whole, in lieu of the mess that's going on now.
Another thing that is supremely subtle, that nobody I know talks about, is the quality of the set symbols. There were so many great set symbols back in the day. The column for Legends, the scimitar for Arabian Knights, the flag for Alliances, the snowflake for Ice Age, the palm tree for Mirage, the storm cloud for Tempest, the bridge for Exodus, the gears, hammer, and flask for Urza's Saga, Legacy, Destiny. The mask for Mercadian Masques! The set symbols tried to communicate a brief point, and that was that. The people behind them knew that they didn't have a lot of space, and that the set symbol had to be something that was easily recognizable. There were some middle-of-the-road set symbols (Visions, Homelands, Stronghold), but the first one that I remember being bad was Invasion. At some point in the process, it felt like there was a shift; the set symbol stopped being something that communicated something about the set to you, to being something that required existing knowledge to understand. A cloud with lightning firing from it communicates a storm, and there are many things that we associate with storms, both in literal and figurative terms. What exactly is the Dominaria set symbol? There are enough uniquely identifiable objects in existence that this should never have been a problem. It's just one tiny thing that adds to your experience, all without you really thinking about it.
A Magic card is the culmination of all of those things. The cards themselves matter - the text within those borders is obviously critical, but in its own way, it's also irrelevant. If you create a legitimately beautiful piece of art, and you complement it with exquisite frames, fonts, set symbols, etc., the attachment that people form with the game will be that much stronger than it is now. Check out the font on this card:
They paid to develop this font! They wanted to be able to copyright a font. I totally get it, it makes sense, from a legal perspective, to have a font that you've copyrighted. Great. Why was this the end product? Here's a fun aside for anyone interested:
The function of the cards is tremendously important; Wizards mishaps with the function of the cards in the last few years has certainly lost them players. I just sincerely believe that if they had spent more time working on making the game as beautiful as possible in all the other ways that they could, that they'd have the opportunity to create a more 'sticky' experience with the game, and potentially keep their player retention rate higher than whatever it is.
This is all a wildly absurd deviation from the original point of the conversation, which was just to say that, yes, Classic was for sets from 1993-2003, and that those years, and sets, were chosen for valid reasons. Various interpretations of 'Pre-Modern' that don't take into account what they lose by adding 8th Edition frame cards (and anything newer) miss a significant part of the exercise in creating the format.
Sorry for the ridiculous nature of this post. My kudos to anyone who gets through this whole thing.