[Free Article] Building Your Own Old School Format



  • Chapter 4 of my ongoing series: http://www.vintagemagic.com/blog/chapter-4-old-school-magic-build-your-own-old-school-format/

    In this article, I shift from strategy to discussion of how to design your format, and which considerations you should weigh.

    This article canvasses the options for format construction, and the pros and cons of each option. It's a controversial topic, but here are my thoughts!

    Please let me know what you think, or just enjoy the scans of the pretty cards.

    Cheers,

    Stephen



  • @Smmenen very minor correction, but I know you are a historian and stickler. Nalathi Dragon was given out at DragonCon first, causing an uproar. A while later it appeared in the Duelist. The dragon could briefly be traded for power, which for me at college in Atlanta worked out well.

    ~Sean



  • Interesting read. I haven't tried any variants that allow sets newer than Fallen Empires, but I've seen a Facebook group pop up for 95-96 magic. Also, just FYI, there is a newer international group on Facebook for people seeking to play OldSchool (93/94) via Skype.



  • @Gumgod said:

    Interesting read. I haven't tried any variants that allow sets newer than Fallen Empires,

    Last year I started buying up Ice Age dual lands just so I would be prepared. I've dabbled a little bit into building and playing with Ice Age (as this article suggests), but I played ALOT of Type I in 1995, so I'm very familiar with the feel and experience.

    The hype around Ice Age was primarily Icy Manipulator, but the most shocking card - once the set was spoiled - was Jester's Cap. That card really blew my adolescent mind!

    I love @Prospero's Classic Format Old School variant, and that is exactly the kind of thinking that I hope proliferates. I would greatly enjoy playing that format, just as I would many Old School formats.



  • @Smmenen I started playing in Revised, and I remember when Ice Age was released. I was just playing casually with friends, but I remember a lot of people being hyped about Jester's Mask and Deflection. Nothing like that had really existed before. At that time no one I knew excluded any sets of the past when playing, so if someone had moxes, they played them. I also remember playing for ante back then, but the best card I can remember winning was a regrowth, and I've blacked out all my losses.



  • I have to confess that I also loved playing a singleton Deflection in many of my UW control decks. That may explain my penchant for Misdirection many years later :)

    I Deflected more than one Amnesia in my day, but it was also just very useful in general. I'd play it in Hymns, land destruction spells, Disenchants, Plows, Fireballs, and much more. I may have to pick up a few Deflection.

    Ice Age was also just a beautiful set. I really loved the aesthetics of it.



  • Loving this series @Smmenen, keep up the good work! Having recently started playing 93/94 myself, I can truly understand why it's so beloved by so many people. As someone who started playing in the modern era of magic, it's truly an amazing experience to dive into Magic's past and experience it as much as I can.

    I've recently put together a full deck as well, and looking forward to slowly pimping it out!



  • Ice Age means a cantrip cartel of Portent and Brainstorm which reminds me too much of modern Magic where the incentive to play blue is so overwhelming it stifles innovation in some respects.

    Blue decks in FE and back Old School have to swim in the seas of variance with the other colors. Yeah some games are dumpster fires because one player drew Ancestral ... but Mind Twist, Nether Void and Blood Moon can produce similar one sided on the play blow outs.



  • I've spent the last several months acquiring old school cards. My preferred format is "encyclopedia magic." I made my own banned/restricted list and have been enjoying it. As a consequence, I also have cards to play 93/94, old school, etc. Steve's article put into words all the thought I put behind my personal format.

    The best part about formats like this bring you back to when Magic was young and fresh, either as a player, or as a fan of Magic in general. I came back to Magic with Worldwake, and while I appreciate this brave, new world, something never truly clicked with me. Choosing to play old cards in my own terrible brews, combined with the slower format and fantastic artwork is really a homecoming for me.

    Going back and playing true ABU cards, which I never had originally, has also been wonderful. I've always had a penchant for white borders (thanks 4th edition), but now I truly appreciate fully black bordered decks.

    In conclusion, there is something incredibly satisfying in playing old school formats. I haven't enjoyed Magic like this since I first started playing back in 1995. If you haven't tried these formats out yet, I highly recommend them. Play an "official" one, make your own, just get to it, grab some buds and brews, and HAVE FUN! You won't regret it.

    PS - the absolute best part of these formats is NO FETCH LANDS . It is an absolute joy to just top deck. Unless you are timetwistering for the win, of course!



  • Steve, I'm curious your perspective on the possibility of watering down "Old School" with so many variations. The community is small enough as is, so testing is not easy even if only a singular definition of Old School existed. I'm excited to see all these possibilities of Old School pop up, but I'm concerned that:

    1. Too many people won't get into "Old School" due to so many confusing variants (there was already an argument for that with the differences between North American 93/94 and that of the Swedes concept of 93/94), and/or

    2. That there isn't enough activity for a particular format to establish a metagame and worthwhile to practice for. I wish that MTGO could be a testing ground, however not all the cards are printed (can't think of anything important right off the bat) and Chaos Orb, a pivotal card of the era, is unable to be replicated online.

    Maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective and that these are strictly meant to be casual, thus making any "complaints" irrelevant. I just can't escape the thought that people who put in the time to collect and practice for a given format have some reasonable expectation of being able to play in an event more than once a year.



  • I wish that MTGO could be a testing ground, however not all the cards are printed (can't think of anything important right off the bat) and Chaos Orb, a pivotal card of the era, is unable to be replicated online.

    MTGO is missing a lot of stuff including King Suleiman, Electric Eel, Sorceress Queen, Mind bomb and a number of other fun cards. They don't seem like much to most MTGO players, but are really fun to brew with in Old School. Also building decks on MTGO requires using some cards with new borders and art, which does make it feel different. It's still fun though.



  • @enderfall said:

    Steve, I'm curious your perspective on the possibility of watering down "Old School" with so many variations. The community is small enough as is, so testing is not easy even if only a singular definition of Old School existed. I'm excited to see all these possibilities of Old School pop up, but I'm concerned that:

    1. Too many people won't get into "Old School" due to so many confusing variants (there was already an argument for that with the differences between North American 93/94 and that of the Swedes concept of 93/94), and/or

    2. That there isn't enough activity for a particular format to establish a metagame and worthwhile to practice for. I wish that MTGO could be a testing ground, however not all the cards are printed (can't think of anything important right off the bat) and Chaos Orb, a pivotal card of the era, is unable to be replicated online.

    Maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective and that these are strictly meant to be casual, thus making any "complaints" irrelevant. I just can't escape the thought that people who put in the time to collect and practice for a given format have some reasonable expectation of being able to play in an event more than once a year.

    Perhaps one of the attractions of Old School is the rejection of the contemporary notion of preparing for a "metagame." Instead of finely honed decks attacking each dimension of the extant metagame, it's a free for all where people bring their best strategies, and battle.

    I think that is one of the main reasons to continually shake up the format even within existing communities by tinkering with the restricted list and introducing new sets: to prevent over metagaming and keep strategic possibilities open and alive.

    Rather than watering the Old School experience down, I think it is one of the fundamental strengths.

    In any case, it's not too confusing to build decks for an event, a meetup or a tournament. Just follow the rules posted, like for Eternal Weekend.

    EDIT:

    Think about this: Vintage doesn't need B&R list changes or new sets to be deliberately added or removed in order to keep the metagame dynamic. That's because Vintage benefits from the actual real-time fact of new set printings. Consider what a huge difference the sets in the last few years have made to the Vintage format (Dack, Treasure Cruise, Hangarback, etc.).

    Without deliberate introduction of new sets or dynamic changes to the B&R list, then Old School formats risk stagnation that isn't possible in other constructed formats that naturally assimilate new sets.



  • @Smmenen said:

    Without deliberate introduction of new sets or dynamic changes to the B&R list, then Old School formats risk stagnation that isn't possible in other constructed formats that naturally assimilate new sets.

    Agreed, and this is why different rules, and different formats (ie. 95, 96, Classic, etc.) are great. The point of playing any casual formats is to have fun with friends. Each one is its own little experiment, meant for short term satisfaction, just like having a couple of beverages and playing at a pub with friends on a Thursday night.

    There is no Pro Tour qualification on the line, and the goal of any Old School format is not to "put in work and practice and find the most optimal deck." Do you want to know the most optimal deck in any old format? It's usually blue and white as a base colors, because they're the most efficient, and also the most boring. The point is to do something enjoyable and different than normal regulated Magic formats, and not worry about optimum configurations and B&R minutiae.



  • @Smmenen I love reading more oldschool content, and this is a very nice breakdown of the different sets and what they add to a specific environment. As always, quality work.

    BUT in this case I think it is a little unprofessional, especially after stating that the format comes in a lot of flavours, to talk down on people that have another definition of the format. Something like

    "I believe some Old School Groups have taken that up, and now legalize Summer edition cards. The irony, of course, is that Summer Edition is just a reprint of Revised, which many of these same groups do not permit. Intellectual consistency, I suppose, is the hobgoblin of small minds."

    is really not helpful. You could have left out the last sentence and everyone would still have seen your point ;-)
    I think you handled this pretty good in the Revised section.

    That being said - keep up the good work. Hope to see more of this series!



  • While I am active in the "93/94" community, a larger movement has erupted in my local area around a "95/96" format. A casual format at heart it has seen as many as a dozen players in my area throw in to make decks. Legal sets are as follows:

    Fourth Edition
    Chronicles
    Fallen Empire
    Homelands
    Mirage
    Ice Age
    Alliances

    Not as grandiose as the aforementioned format but it has grabbed the attention of many players who played during the time. Players have gravitated towards popular decks of the time, including several variants of Necro and Erhnamgeddon. White weenie plays a large role in the format as well. I personally enjoy a RG Stormbind deck with plenty of LD and direct damage because it is what I played during those years. We have a pretty decent restricted list for the format as well.



  • @Twiedel said:

    @Smmenen I love reading more oldschool content, and this is a very nice breakdown of the different sets and what they add to a specific environment. As always, quality work.

    BUT in this case I think it is a little unprofessional, especially after stating that the format comes in a lot of flavours, to talk down on people that have another definition of the format. Something like

    "I believe some Old School Groups have taken that up, and now legalize Summer edition cards. The irony, of course, is that Summer Edition is just a reprint of Revised, which many of these same groups do not permit. Intellectual consistency, I suppose, is the hobgoblin of small minds."

    is really not helpful. You could have left out the last sentence and everyone would still have seen your point ;-)
    I think you handled this pretty good in the Revised section.

    That being said - keep up the good work. Hope to see more of this series!

    Marc,

    You misunderstood an English idiom. That phrase was self-effacing, not other-directed. The "small mind" in that meaning was me ;)



  • @Smmenen Thanks for pointing this out to a silly non-native speaker that feels pretty embarassed right now... and is amazed that you have an idiom that is refering to hobgoblins. ;-)



  • @Twiedel said:

    @Smmenen Thanks for pointing this out to a silly non-native speaker that feels pretty embarassed right now... and is amazed that you have an idiom that is refering to hobgoblins. ;-)

    I also had no idea what he was talking about. Today I learned (after a quick Google search) it seems to be a reference to/paraphrasing of Emerson .



  • @Twiedel said:

    @Smmenen Thanks for pointing this out to a silly non-native speaker that feels pretty embarassed right now... and is amazed that you have an idiom that is refering to hobgoblins. ;-)

    LOL. English is full of odd phrases like that - some deriving from Shakespeare and other famous works/authors, but many of which whose origins have been lost.

    Regarding your interesting analogy (posted on social media) comparing the use of only some sets to Vintage cars, I would just point out that CE/IE were actually printed before or at the same time as Unlimited. So if age is a factor in whether to include a set or not, then the CE/IE clearly has that going in it's favor.

    I think, for me, the more important reason to permit CE/IE is that the cards are simply beautiful and satisfy the aesthetic concerns of Old School. They have the exact same coloration/art/border/frame as Alpha/Beta (on the front, except for the square corners), and they are often in better average condition because they weren't legal in tournaments. Not to mention, they are technically rarer than Unlimited.

    If the goal is to achieve the "aesthetic" quality of Old School, I think a reasonable argument could be made, from those premises, that CI/IE has a better "claim" to be permitted than Unlimited, which it's garish white borders :)



  • @Smmenen said:

    Regarding your interesting analogy (posted on social media) comparing the use of only some sets to Vintage cars, ...

    Of course you know an analogy only goes that far... but I think a lot of people got the point in not allowing revised or proxies way better than just arguing about cards. If someone came to a Muscle car race with a reproduction, they probably wouldn't feel entitled to compete. Same is true with reprints and oldschool.

    That being said, I think I agree with you on the CE/IE cards, though I personally don't enjoy playing with them too much. To get the same "aesthetic" they are perfectly fine, and if you're using dark/black sleeves then it probably won't even be noticed by your opponent at a glance.

    I really love Unlimited though, I think near mint Unlimited cards are just beautiful. Don't know where and when I got this, but probably because UNL cards where mostly compared to Revised and not Alpha/Beta. A comparison that they would always win, of course.



  • I agree. I play with CE when I play old school. I only play it casually though. I've yet to travel to play in one of these organized events, but they are on the list of allowed sets for Eternal Central events.

    Also, just look how beautiful they are.

    alt text

    I would love to go to the old school event Eternal weekend. It's not that far, and I have a friend I could stay with, but the old school event is on a Thursday, and that means I'd have to take multiple days off work to attend. :/

    edit: cropped image.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to The Mana Drain was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.