• Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2013

    By the end of 2012, the Vintage format was surprisingly open and diverse. Any perceptible metagame trends were overwhelmed by normal oscillations. Return to Ravnica was a slow burn, gradually pushing Vintage decks in new directions, but tournament results in the final months of the year were all over the place. Control variants performed very well, but each Top 8 seemed to reflect a different view of the format. The year ahead would test the format in unexpected ways, while continuing the DCI’s episodic experiment in pruning the Vintage Restricted List and surprising selections in doing so, and exercising patience in adding anything to it. Learn about this and more in the latest installment of the History of Vintage.
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2012

    For a format marketed as “Eternal,” each year in the History of Vintage delivers unexpected twists and turns in the direction of the metagame and the evolution of the card pool. Nonetheless, certain fundamental axioms are observed over time. Occasionally, these perdurable verities are controverted, as when manaless Dredge proved a deck could not only win without playing spells, but was optimized without Moxen. 2012 taught that even the most unshakeable truths and foundational assumptions are open to question, if not doubt.
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  • So Many Insane Plays Podcast Episode 76: Vintage Scenarios

    Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian discuss Vintage scenarios, the newly-announced SCG Con, and add more bonus, non-Magic content.
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  • No Man is an Island

    It’s a Friday night in 2000, and I’m sitting across from T.J. Impellizzieri. We’re on the Trinity Green mirror. He was ahead, and it was late. He had chipped away at me early. I needed to find an answer, quickly, as two massive boards saw his growing more menacing than mine. The early damage he did mattered. Time was running out.

    My Skyshroud Poacher was hunting away, trying to thin my deck so that I could hit an answer. I activated it again at the end of his turn, and was met with a quick retort “Hey, why don’t you show what you had on top?” I flipped my top card. Masticore. This was going to be my end. That was the out that I needed to win, and now it would be shuffled away. Dejectedly, I found another Llanowar Elf, shuffled, and presented my deck back to T.J. He cut, and then I drew it.

    Maybe I lack vision, but in the moment, there are few joys in life as pure as the perfect top-deck.

    Rofellos, Gaea’s Cradle, and all my mana provided the fuel needed to pick off his army, one by one, machine-gun style, with the freshly cast Masticore. The tide turned, a situation that was becoming hopeless did an about-face, and was suddenly impossibly in my favor.

    I went on to the finals and proved victorious. This was the first tournament that I ever won. The joy of winning an event would serve as its own fuel, to attend countless others, in an effort to recapture that moment and feel it again. But no matter how any future events went, no victory is ever so special as your first.

    I was 17, and while we all had access to the Internet, the kind of in-depth strategy that is readily available from myriad sites nowadays was mostly absent, save for TheDojo.com and NeutralGround.net. This is a kind way of saying that I was mediocre at best back then.

    We didn’t learn online yet, we learned from the players who beat us. Erik Rodriguez was the best player at Mark’s Comics back then. Watching him play was an incredible learning experience. He played the game at a higher level than all of us. His timing, his patience, his deck construction, the psychological warfare that he engaged in, they were all elite. He, and a few others (like Jill Costigan) routinely crushed us. I owe them both thanks for that. You will never learn more from anything in life than from your losses, and from your mistakes.

    The second wave of strong Mark’s Comics players came shortly after E-Rod had moved on. Bryn Kenney, T.J., Dave Kaplan, Gregg Spano, and Christian Grim competed for his mantle. Bryn was the best of us, but the level of competition amongst all was exceptionally high. These were deep waters, and if you intended on winning games, you had to learn quickly. We took our lumps, and we grew.

    Magic has taught me, sometimes inadvertently, crucial life lessons. Learning what it took to win was important. Learning the importance of repetition, testing, and not just asking questions, but asking the right questions, were lessons that had applications outside Magic. Even then, there was so much more than just the strategy of Magic.

    Before the era of Facebook, before everyone had cell phones, before the Internet had truly taken flight, you could still find something new and foreign introduced to you through the vehicle of something that you thought, mistakenly, you knew. I got my first job when I was 15. I worked as a stock boy in a small family-owned shop, and at the end of every Saturday, I’d take a check for $35 home. Minimum wage was $5.15 an hour, and 15 cents went to my Social Security contribution.

    The check on Saturday turned into a bike ride to Doubleheader on Sunday. The local sports memorabilia store had boxes of the most recent Magic sets, and if you angled yourself past Patrick Ewing, Wayne Gretzky, Don Mattingly, and Dwight Gooden, you could buy packs. Urza’s Legacy was the newest set, and I happily spent my pay on nine packs. I hoped to open cards I could use to beat Danny Dinardo, Kenny Jackson, and others the following Friday night, when we’d all go to Danny’s, and play at his parent’s kitchen table. I opened something, and didn’t understand what it was:

    I didn’t know what I was looking at. I did, however, know that I loved it. I was the first of my friends to open what we later learned was called a foil. They were rare and beautiful, exotic birds somehow transported to a frigid locale. They weren’t yet seen en masse. A deck of foils was an absurd notion; how would you ever get them all in time, before a deck rotated out of Type II?

    Pro Tour New York 2000 was held at The Armory, which seemed impossibly large, and yet perfectly suited for the event. While I wouldn’t be playing, I had gone with friends to see what a Pro Tour was like. I met Richard Garfield. We were at what I’d later feel was the apex of Magic, in the heady days of Urza’s block. The newest, coolest, thing was the introduction of foils. It was then that I learned of judge foils. I had never seen one in person (none of my friends had either), and I dreamed of one day owning them. The art direction back then was magnificent, and the foils that had been chosen were special. Serra Avatar, Stroke of Genius, and, most prized among them all, Gaea’s Cradle. I went to the first dealer table I saw, and stared into the showcase to find all these valuable, rare cards. Serra Avatar, $150. Stroke of Genius, $250. Gaea’s Cradle, $350. There was also a mint Beta Black Lotus, but at $400, but it seemed far too expensive. Clearly I would never own one of those.

    Foils were glorious. It was the shimmer of them, caught in the light. Maybe it’s a link to an animal instinct that likes shiny things. Maybe it’s just that they felt like a statement when they hit play, not a financial one, but cards that screamed “This is what the game could be! This is what the game could look like, at its apex!” Original borders, the perfectly understated foil star, the perfect, beautiful fantasy art done by some of the best artists in the world; these cards were without flaws and I loved them.

    There were so many beautiful images turned into beautiful foils (our debt of gratitude to the men and women who subtly introduced that beauty to our lives will never really be fully paid). While Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Karn, Silver Golem, Covetous Dragon, and many, many others all had homes in decks, Masticore was ubiquitous. Paolo Parente’s rainbow of a painting was played in nearly every deck in the format. Masticore was the king of foils.

    I had wanted foil Masticore for a long, long time, and yet who would deal them away? I finally found someone willing to trade me foil Masticores online, on the Magic Online Trading League. A trusting 17 year old shipped off Gaea’s Cradles, non-foil Masticores, and more, and waited patiently. Eventually I received an email informing me that I should stop reaching out to him, that I would never get the cards.

    It was another life lesson, this time about trust, knowing where to place it, and where not to.

    Time passed, and Masticore rotated. Arcbound Ravager pushed me out of Type II, and committed me fully to Type I. For a while, I was able to run Masticore in my mono-blue control deck (aptly named by the community, it was called Blue Bullshit). But even then, Masticore’s days were numbered, and eventually I moved on to playing Mishra’s Workshop decks, forsaking blue, and never owning a foil Masticore.

    Many years passed. October of 2017 came around, and for the first time since 2009, I would not be going to play in Vintage Champs. I wished my friends luck, I dug in at work, and I prepared to catch as much as I could of the matches online on the Twitch broadcast. Nick Coss coined the name Eternal Weekend, and he has turned Vintage Champs into the de-facto global Vintage tournament. While my passion for the format has waned, I felt a powerful desire to be there when I turned the stream on, and saw friends battling. Thank you Nick. It gives me hope that the fire to play again will be lit at some point in the future.

    I sat there at my desk, watching the stream, following up on my work. A friend from Florence reached out to me. Raffaele Ramagli and I had made each other’s acquaintance a few years ago, and we have kept in touch since. I loved hearing from an Italian Vintage player; he was on the ground, and could give me feedback on events I’d never been to, on players whom I knew of there, of others whom I respected, and most of all, Italy itself. As we toil away in our lives, it’s easy to forget that the world is a great big place. Magic has helped remind me of the world’s magnitude, as I speak to those I’m lucky enough to call friends who inhabit their corners of the world.

    I feel embarrassed to write it, as in some perverse way it feels like I’m puffing my chest (which I swear, I’m not), but occasionally I’ll have players I don’t know from other parts of the world reach out to me. Maybe they know me from TheManaDrain.com, the N.Y.S.E. Open, from playing Workshop decks with Raffaele and Vincent Forino, or from my short stint in the first Vintage Super League play-in tournament online. I am grateful every time it happens, as it’s yet another instance in which Magic proves itself to be a bond that transcends national borders, that crosses oceans, that unites hearts and minds.

    Raffaele and I spoke about a lot as we watched the Top 8. Mostly, Vintage. But towards the end of the coverage, as the match against Rich Shay and Andy Markiton worked its way to a decisive game three, I asked him if he could keep an eye out for me for Magic art.

    Those kids from the 90’s have grown up. The kids who played with their Hammer of Bogardans, their Cursed Scrolls, their Morphlings, Masticores, and Rishadan Ports are now adults. We’ve discovered, as we’ve aged, that the time that we devoted to the game is time we may not have to give anymore. Any number of commitments keep us away: jobs, significant others, and for many, children. The time that we have for the game runs short, but there, in the back of our minds, lie burnished memories, shining like beacons of our halcyon youth, demanding never to be forgotten. How could we forget them?

    I had reached out to Paolo Parente years prior, and was given the same information that he gave all who asked; Masticore was a gift to a friend who once ran a store in Milan. He did not remember the man’s name, and he knew that the store had closed.

    It wasn’t much to go on. But the connections that we forge through this game, this thing that holds us together despite all that could divide us, would help Raffaele track down Masticore. He spoke with friends, including Giampiero Ronzo, who gave us our first lead. Antonio Prama gave us more information, leading us further down the path. It led to Alessandro Cattani, who provided the most vital piece of information; an old email address that the owner of Masticore was believed to have used. Raffaele followed up there, and, magically, a response came back shortly thereafter. Gentlemen, I owe you all a debt of gratitude for your efforts. Thank you.

    Magic art, and the pursuit of it, is a strange thing. You will hear whispers of whispers of things, and then nothing. You will work at something for years, to no avail. And then chance steps in, the veil is pierced, and information flows like the waters from a broken dam. You had nothing, you worked for inches. In an instant, you are given miles. It is a surreal experience, and it doesn’t happen often. When it does happen, it ignites the memories from your youth. For a few moments, you have recaptured what you felt when you were 17, playing a game that would prove one of your greatest teachers, with your best friends.

    I had been burned once for Masticore, albeit a lowly foil. Now, the piece itself had appeared before me. A gifted artist had touched that paper, had worked over it, had exercised his brilliance in creating a piece that conveyed strength, and did it with beauty.

    Trust. It was one of the early lessons from Magic; to recognize those who deserved it, and those who do not. Could I trust the owner? Yes. He was a prominent member of the community in Italy at the turn of the millennium. He understood that, in many ways, our names, our honor, are all that we have. However much we could gain from sacrificing those things in an instant, we would lose far more in a lifetime for having sacrificed them.

    I paid him, and I waited. Christmas came, and went. New Year’s approached. And then I got a phone call from my office as I enjoyed my vacation. A package had arrived.

    As I sat there, Masticore in my lap, I wondered how it had all happened. How it was that this was possible. My cadre of Italians, led by Raffaele, joined by Giampiero, Antonio, and Alessandro had made this possible. My good friend Kouji Kobayashi had been invaluable as my counsel through the process. Ben Huang, Will Larson, Paul Akerman, and others, all played important roles. Masticore had been sought after by others. I did not hunt for the piece until the time came when I had friends who could help me. Friends in Italy, Japan, Singapore, and across the United States.

    To all of them, I owe a debt of gratitude. Thank you.

    There’s Masticore, fighting side by side Morphling in Accelerated Blue. There’s Masticore, allied with Rofellos, in Trinity Green. There’s Masticore, clearing the path for victory in B.B.S. There’s Masticore, reminding a man in his 30’s of the joy that a teenager once felt at a draw off the top of his deck.

  • Madison Offensive 2018 Old School 93-94 Coverage

    The Lords of the Pit and Eternal Central are proud to present coverage of the second annual Madison Offensive, a charity Old School Magic 93-94 event held in Madison, Wisconsin (USA). The charity for this year’s event was Charles S. Brownell Elemental School, a local school in Chicago.
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  • So Many Insane Plays Podcast Episode 75: Rivals of Ixalan

    Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian review Rivals of Ixalan for Vintage, and discuss recent changes in the content and method of Banned and Restricted List announcement.
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2011

    2011 may be one of the most tumultuous years in the history of the Vintage format that does not feature a restriction. It was a textbook example of how new decks are birthed by innovation as creative answers to metagame problems. Turbo Tezzeret and the Vintage Control decks broke open Lodestone’s stranglehold on the format. Slash Panther was a new solution to the menace of Jace. Gush surged in the third quarter, but fell back to earth by the end of the year, finishing Q4 with just 15% of Top 8s.
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  • So Many Insane Plays Podcast Episode 74: 2017 Year in Review

    Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian review the events of 2017 – for Vintage – and award their Moxies for Best Card, Set, Deck, and Story.
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2010

    2010 was a year defined by Worldwake. Rarely before has a new Standard-legal expansion set shaped the Vintage metagame so shortly after its release. Read Stephen Menendian’s amazing new 2010 installment of the History of Vintage to learn about this transformation and much, much more.
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  • Schools of Magic: The History of Vintage – A StarCityGames Power Nine Series Retrospective

    Star City Games.

    For nearly a decade, it was as close as an independent company can become to being synonymous with a Magic format. One of the pioneers of the online store/strategy content hybrid model, StarCityGames hired Type 1/Vintage writers for its burgeoning stable of content creation almost as soon as the website launched in 2000. In short order, the website became a reader’s digest for Type I deck ideas and advice.
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2009

    The restoration of Time Vault led to a reckoning in Vintage, with a major mid-year restriction in 2009. The correction produced a metagame that was visibly diverse and interesting all the while new strategies gradually emerged and improved themselves by assimilating new printings and tactics. Witness how Conflux and Alara Reborn nudged the great Schools of Magic forward, while Zendikar fundamentally transformed the possibilities and tactical dimensions of the format. Read about all of this and more in this installment of the History of Vintage!
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2008

    As the clock turned forward from 2007 to 2008, it would not have been possible to foresee the incredible changes that would occur through the year. The format was rocked by sweeping restrictions, surprising errata, and impactful printings.

    A tightly defined metagame allowed a few low key printings to shake the Vintage firmament, including Reveillark and Painter’s Servant. The sturm und drang over the Flash combo, and whether it was the most deadly Vintage deck of all time seemed overheated weeks later with Painter’s Servant making Red Elemental Blast a main deck card, and Dredge making Leyline of the Void the second most played card in the format.
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  • Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2007

    The Vintage format pivoted from the Gifts and Pitch Long era headlong in to a new Gush metagame in 2007. Dive into this exciting chapter in the History of Vintage to observe the metagame changes resulting from new sets, the tournament successes that propelled the format forward, and the unexpected twists and turns in the evolution of the great Schools of Magic.
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  • Eternal Insight Podcast Episode 3: Reflections from Eternal Weekend 2017 – The Mighty Montolio

    Andrew Markiton, better known by his MTGO handle “Montolio,” has been making huge splashes in paper Vintage ever since his win at NYSE IV last year, which was followed by a Top 8 at the 2016 Vintage World Champs, which was followed by him winning the tournament this year and taking home a Black Lotus painting back to his cozy home in Toronto, Canada. In this interview we go over Andy’s Magic history, his preparation for Eternal Weekend, his role in the Vintage Superteam “The Academy,” and his day leading to his historic Top 8. It is my great pleasure to present this year’s Vintage World champion (and an overall great guy) Andy Markiton!
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  • Tusk Talk Podcast Episode 23: Legacy Champs and Old School at Eternal Weekend

    Part two of a double feature on Eternal Weekend. Today we have Evan Nyquist (HymnYou), Branden Hagen (Seemsgood), and Special Guest from The Taxmen Greg Kraigher (Vintage Greg). We go deeper into Eternal Weekend following last episode’s coverage focusing on Vintage, and pivot to Legacy and our experiences playing at Eternal Weekend 2017. We also talk about the Eternal Central Old School event (118 players), and a some brief thoughts on Vintage.
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  • Hard Work Pays Off – Eternal Weekend 2017 Double Top 8

    Legacy and Vintage are my chosen formats in Magic, and I enjoy them far more than any other, and choose to not play anything else. Because of this, Eternal Weekend is basically my World Championships, so I decided to treat it like it was.
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  • Tusk Talk Podcast Episode 22: Vintage Champs and Mishra’s Last Stand

    Part one of a double feature on Eternal Weekend. Hot Carl / Ponder? (Greg Mitchell), Nedleeds (Sean), and Vintage Champs Top 8 competitor Greedy Mike (Mike Kiesel) talk Vintage and food in Pittsburgh.
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  • Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage

    This is going to be a long article, because there’s a lot to touch on. If you care about nuanced policy, this may appeal to you. If you are turned off by a wall of text, please seek hot takes in the form of social media posts and video clips elsewhere. Policy has far reaching implications, whether I agree with it or not, and whether I enjoy the cards and decks being affected or not. I own all the cards, I test all the cards, I lend out the cards I’m not using. They are a sunk cost, and I’m not worried about the value of them because of policy changes. The truth is I enjoy playing every type of strategy in Vintage, from hatebears to Workshops to combo to Dredge to the broken blue decks that play all of the most fun cards. In my own preparation for Champs this year I tested and seriously considered 6 distinctly different decks for Champs, then narrowed it to 4 in the final days, before finalizing my 75 the morning of.
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  • North America Legacy Champs 2017 – ALL Decklists and Metagame Breakdown

    North America Legacy Champs is now in the books, with 711 players attending this year. Once again, Nick Coss and all of tireless staff at Card Titan did an outstanding job organizing and running the events at Eternal Weekend, and should be commended for growing and supporting the community.
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  • Three In a Row: Top 8 at Eternal Weekend 2017 Old School Tournament

    Some years ago, in daydream ruminations, I began developing a theory about what makes Vintage so compelling, as distinguished from other Magic formats. How can something as intangible and unquantifiable as “fun” be described? Intrigued, I began to formulate a mental catalogue of answers. First, Vintage features high impact, high stakes plays. A minor miscue in a high speed race can result in a severe crash; the same is true of Vintage. Fetching a land at the wrong time can result in Ancestral Recall – or worse – resolving. Given the objectively high power level of the tactics in the format, there is a natural anxiety – and exhilaration – produced from playing the format. Anything and everything can and will happen, and as early as the first turn. There is no passive early game, where nerves are calm and game play sedate. Vintage is high octane. It’s a thrill, and there is a rush.
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  • Spedternal Weekend 2017: An Old School Tournament Report

    It all started back in 1997 at PT Rye. Jamie Parke, Ben Farkas, Joe Weber (whatever_7 on mIRC, try #mtgpro), Lyle Cohen, Adam Lemke, Dennis Speigel and I had been hanging out playing Magic together for years. We were deece(ish), but back then all you had to do was attack before casting your spells and you were a Top 100 player in the world. Two of our own had finally made it to the big time, the Top 8 of the Magic: The Gathering Junior Pro Tour! Ben Farkas and Jamie Parke were playing each other in the semifinals. Jamie ended up beating Farkas after Farkas main phase tapped Jamie’s Cockatrice with Aysen Bureaucrats, only to lose on the crackback from said Cockatrice as he was at 2 (I mean…I mean…). Jamie promptly lost in the finals to one Ron Franke, a fact we make sure he never forgets (even today we occasionally refer to him as Ronald Franke or some variant thereof). Before the finals, Jamie comes out and says that they want to interview him, and we need a team name on the hop. We had always considered ourselves a team, but had yet to formally announce it to the world. The finals of the prestigious Junior World Championships seemed like the perfect place. Joe Weber suggested Team Sped, which fit for a variety of reasons, and we ran with it. And so Team Sped was born. We have been through a lot together over the years: weddings, babies, Mario Kart, McRibs, etc. They remain my best friends to this day.
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  • So Many Insane Plays Podcast Episode 73: Eternal Weekend in Review

    Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian break down the results of North America Vintage Champs 2017, and interview 2017 champ Andy Markiton (aka Montolio).
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  • Old School 93-94 at Eternal Weekend 2017 – ALL Decklists and Photo Report

    The fourth annual Eternal Central Old School at Eternal Weekend tournament is history, and made history. 118 players came out to battle on game day, making this the largest Old School 93-94 tournament to date. There were many familiar faces, some players who came out of retirement, and many new players joining in the festivities for their first Old School event. Everyone seemed to have a blast.
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  • The Curious Case of Mishra’s Workshop

    With 5 out of 8 spots consumed by shop decks I thought I’d post some thoughts that I’ve been boiling for a year of so now, since the restriction of Chalice of the Void.

    If you objectively looked at Vintage Champs this year, were unencumbered by budget or cardboard loyalty concerns, and had to choose a deck of the ‘known’ options, Mishra’s Workshop Aggro was a great choice. Workshops are always a good choice when ~50%+ of the format is on 3.8 Missteps, 1.2 Flusterstorms and half a Pyroblast game one. But how did we get to where we are? How can we destroy the current dichotomy?
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