Steps Along the Journey (Everyone Has a Story)

I feel a little guilty for not posting more after receiving a n00bcon content creator invite. Here are some ramblings about my first three years in the format.

My oldschool Magic journey started late in 2015 when I started piecing together a black/white midrange deck with some of my favorite staples from the era. In the beginning, I embraced Swedish 93/94 legality, finding more nostalgia and allure in the game's earliest printings. This was favorable, as I managed to trade newer cards into various utilitarian commodities before prices started getting out of hand. Not that I'm fully powered, or anywhere close, but I do feel fortunate to have built a solid foundation to my oldschool collection during those days.

Some of the first cards I acquired to get the ball rolling. Take nothing for granted in this format.

A little ways in, a couple friends and I dipped our feet into singleton 93/94 as a way of opening up the pool of playables beyond the typical brews found online, wanting to run decks that had room for cards like The Wretched and Desert Twister (nowadays, players seem to scratch that itch more with oldschool Commander). As part of this endeavor, I accumulated one-ofs sufficient to craft three or four Swedish-legal, unpowered singleton decks. Some of these cards ended up making good trade fodder when I found myself looking to acquire higher end pieces later on, though most of them I still have, despite the rise in value of just about everything in Unlimited.

BGr midrange (October 2016)

"Slighlander" (October 2016)

Singleton worked well for a while, but felt strangely homogeneous at times, as decks in the same colors tended to gravitate toward a similar mix of "goodstuff" cards (it's hard to build synergy decks when you can't run anything in multiples, and the first few years of Magic weren't particularly high on redundancy). Still, I think these decks elicited a feel more akin to what playing back in 1994 was really like. If you read through Zak Dolan's 1994 Worlds Diary, for example, it's fascinating to note how suboptimal the two finalist decks were, and how much their strategies often hinged on a single card or two. Not sure how many people know that Bertrand Lestrée's deck (i.e., "Lestrée Zoo") originally ran its four Serendib Efreets out the sideboard? This was definitely an era before the idea of life points as a resource had fully set in. Fabien Sanglard's Website has some excellent deck photos from a 1994 championship reenactment several years ago (Mg actually has the first couple comments on the post, if you scroll down to the bottom).

In any case, revelations about oldschool singleton ushered in another wave of deckbuilding in the space of "traditional" deck construction, and I latched onto various black/red incarnations utilizing Underworld Dreams, Sedge Troll, Howling Mine, Hypnotic Specter, et al. My archetype started with a few reprints but evolved into a fully Swedish juggernaut when I bought into an Unlimited Mox Jet and subsequently traded for a Mox Ruby, Library of Alexandra, and my prized alpha Chaos Orb, only then lacking a Black Lotus. This culminated around the tail end of last year, and is the deck I played in a friendly game against LSV at GP Columbus back in April.

"Underworld Troll," first iteration (March 2017)

In January of this year, I started my alpha/beta deck project which quickly transcended to a full #alphacult deck, the raison d'être of this website. Over the summer, I began digging a little deeper into the #mtgunderground by branching into budget builds that felt a little more off the beaten path. Oldschool Magic started for me as a novelty, but now that it's my primary format, played weekly (most weeks) with my friend Sean and occasionally in the online community as well, I wanted to have a handful of decks at my disposal, of varying levels of competitiveness.

Budget building in my first two Magic colors. Putting Pendelhaven to work and comboing Sorceress Queen with Aeolipile.

Also during the past few months, my desire to play strictly all-Swedish cards has tapered. While still seeking out original printings when possible, I'm lately finding myself content to toss a Zelyon Sword or Revised Royal Assassin into a deck. I guess it feels like I've proven to myself a willingness to make sacrifices (whether monetary or in letting go of other formats) for 93/94, and now it's simply about achieving the most enjoyable play experience. Not sure if this is some kind of oldschool enlightenment or, more likely, just another step along the journey. It definitely creates a bit of a paradox, as optimally I'd be trying to construct the best Swedish-legal deck possible for n00bcon next April. Instead, this week my path led me to this beta White Knight that doesn't support my existing Swedish pool so much as it slots into the reprint-laden white weenie deck that I recently added to my gauntlet.

There's no safety in desire.

This is a beautiful piece of cardboard. When I put my decks into deckboxes I always keep one particular card on top, usually something that stands out to me aesthetically and symbolizes the deck as a whole. Whether or not I upgrade my other 5th edition White Knights, 4th edition Savannah Lions, or Revised Crusades, this card gets the honor of being the face of this particular work, and evokes a mini rush of adrenaline whenever I open the case. The fact that this matters to me more than optimizing my collection for win percentage is probably a big reason that oldschool continues to resonate in a world where even "casual" Magic formats like EDH seem to grow ever more efficient and cutthroat.

Everyone I talk to has their own stories about the format - how they got into Magic, how they started playing oldschool, how they approach the different variants, or where they find the most fulfillment. There are endless intimate connections to be made here, both to the cards and to each other.


  1. Great read Matt! I really relate to your approach to the format :)

  2. And of course really looking forward to see you at n00bcon next year! :D

    1. Thanks and likewise! This format is amazing and brings so much joy to so many people!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts