Forty-six (Alpha/Beta 1-2-3)

The Alpha deck has undergone a few changes since I wrapped up my initial project after Eternal Weekend last year. For several months, the pile sat mostly unused, not really having an outlet or incentive to be played. The fulfillment was more about the journey, and once the deck was "finished," I was content to step away for awhile, even trading away a couple pieces to funnel value elsewhere into my collection. Besides, we had a new playgroup forming and were having a great time slinging our casual 93/94 decks under Atlantic rules.

As we got into summer, we started dabbling in Revised 40, modifying the rules to allow only one of any rare (up to five total) and two of any uncommon (up to ten total). For us, it wasn't about fostering a budget-competitive format as much as it was emulating our earliest experiences of constructing decks using only the handful of packs we might have opened. The idea was solid, but when someone showed up sporting a pile of nothing but Swamps and Plague Rats, that kind of took the fun out of it. :)

But life is about learning from past mistakes, and Bill and Jim soon began brewing for a new format they christened "Alpha/Beta 1-2-3." For this variant, they compiled 60-card decks from Beta, requiring only black-border versions with the exception of copies that players agreed to acquire in either Alpha or Beta over the next year based on the honor system. So, you couldn't stack your deck with Revised Lightning Bolts or Swords to Plowshares if you weren't willing to pony up for the OG versions, but you were generally fine to proxy in a few Hill Giants. This wasn't to incentivize big spending (though that tends to be a natural result), but to encourage playing Healing Salves and War Mammoths over defaulting to the best cards available.

Additionally, the format continues to allow only one of any rare (up to five total), two of any uncommon (up to ten total), and three of any common, hence the "1-2-3." Again, this is both a throwback and "restrictions breed creativity" sort of thing. When they told me about it, I was slightly enamored: Bill was running a black/red deck with Drudge Skeletons, Dwarven Warriors, and Firebreathing; Jim was packing a four-color deck using all basic lands and Celestial Prism to power out Craw Wurm and Ironroot Treefolk, with almost every card already upgraded to Beta. I asked if they'd let me play my Alpha deck as-constructed to avoid padding it with Revised cards, and they agreed. As a trade-off, I now have a reason to start adding more pieces to eventually get up to 60. (Admittedly, the Nightmare feels a little busted when you can't do much about it outside of X spells, but Jim did manage to Earthbind and block it for a turn before I killed him.)

My deck had already contracted a green splash after I haphazardly added three Forests and a Giant Growth to get back up to 45. After playing last week, I officially fell off the wagon and took my first step toward a new milestone:

Iconic, if not fear-inspiring.

I wanted a little more reason to retain the Forests, and while a Fungusaur or Berserk would be more ideal, I'm willing to start small. Besides, black doesn't offer many two-drop creatures, and while I'm unlikely to draw into a green source early, I can still hope to live the dream of turn one Ritual/Hippie followed by turn two Grizzly Bears. Here's where things stand at this moment:

Of note, I'm already maxed out on Dark Ritual and Hypnotic Specter, but still have three open rare slots for Lord of the Pit, Force of Nature, and Bayou. ;)

More realistically, my next target may be something like Unholy Strength, a low-cost, serviceable creature enchantment in a world where a three-to-four toughness body can be a handful to deal with. This format is purely just a novelty for the Akron Legionnaires, but it's a reason to care about my Alpha deck again, and that definitely gets the endorphins pumping.


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