Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 1997

Schools of Magic History of Vintage 1997

Building on the previous chapters of the Schools of Magic: History of Vintage series, author Stephen Menendian has uncovered a treasure trove of lost decklists and forgotten history as he explores the trends, experiences, and metagame of Type I in 1997, the fifth year of Magic. Whether you are a student of the history of the game, a fan of the early years of Magic, or simply curious about the early years of Vintage, this article is not to be missed. With fifteen tournament winning and high-performing decklists and in-depth analysis, this article is perfect for those who want to relive 1997, as the first age of Type I Magic draws to a close.

Learn how new printings and design innovations from Visions to Tempest transformed the Type I metagame and affected the Banned & Restricted List. Finally, Stephen magnificently deconstructs the six Schools of Magic that emerged in the year early years of the game, and continue to persist today. Do not miss this 27+ page epic covering a pivotal year in the history of Type I/Vintage.

[Begin Free Excerpt From Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 1997]

The Comer School

Although most of the big, important ideas of deck design and structural insights about the format had arisen within the bowels of Type I, that was not always true. There was sometimes a cross-fertilization of ideas across formats. Although major decks had emerged in other formats, like Type II, it was rare that they spawned a major Type I archetype. The genius of Alan Comer brought into existence something that would define Type I for the rest of its existence.

It is, fair to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that Alan Comer is the father of a powerful, important, and new School of Magic. In June 1997, Alan Comer played a deck of his own design to a 2nd place finish in the Southern California Regionals. While his deck was initially perceived as remarkable for including no rares, today we find it far more remarkable for other reasons:

Turbo Xerox, Southern California Regionals (Type II), 2nd Place, by Alan Comer

[Business] (44)
Force of Will
Dissipate
Counterspell
Power Sink
Memory Lapse
Foreshadow
Portent
Impulse
Suq’Ata Firewalker
Waterspout Djinn
Man-o-War
Dream Tides

[Mana Sources] (17)
17 Island
[Sideboard] (15)
Dissipate
Dream Tides
Hydroblast
Knight of the Mists
Sleight of Mind
Dandân

Alan Comer called into being not simply an innovative and inexpensive deck, but an entirely different approach to deck building, that is, in some ways a strong and important counterpoint to the principles developed by Brian Weissman.

Instead of building a deck with a large mana base, Comer built a deck with an intentionally small mana base. Why? If a deck has fewer lands, it can generate virtual card advantage over the course of the game by drawing relevant spells at a greater statistical frequency than the opponent, when the opponent is more likely, on a relative basis, to draw lands and mana sources. This is the opposite of Weissman’s view of a mana base, which emphasized the importance of making land drops in order to avoid discarding countermagic prior to a counter-war.

But how could Comer avoid being mana screwed or falling into Weissman’s trap? To facilitate the low land count, Alan Comer included a high density of blue draw spells and efficient cantrips. Comer used Portent, Impulse, and Foreshadow, in the early game to find lands and smooth his draws. That way, he could, for example, keep a one or two land hand, and be confident that he could find more lands quickly. As Comer explained: “The important thing to remember with this deck is that early on, you MUST use the library manipulation to get to your land. Later, you canuse it to get to cool spells. Things like: I Portent your Library, then Foreshadow away your good spell…”

The idea of substituting land for blue cantrips was later refined into a ratio of design, and has become embedded into deck design principles in Vintage and Legacy. Weissman did not have this option available to him, since the first cantrips did not arrive until Ice Age. It would be some time before a deck like this made its way into Type I, but when it did, it would arrive with a vengeance. And it would be Alan Comer who would be responsible, thanks to his creation in the Summer of 1997.
[End Free Excerpt]

Stephen Menendian

One of the most famous Eternal players in the world, Stephen is the 2007 Vintage World Champion, and the Vintage Super League Season 1 Champion. He is also the author of the Vintage books Understanding Gush: Strategy and Tactics, and Schools of Magic: History of Vintage. He is the longest tenured Vintage writer in the world. Stephen doesn't always play Magic, but when he does, he prefers Vintage.

  • Hello,
    there are a problem with the Doomsday list. It appears the trisk-copy list instead.
    Also the Trisk-Copy list has no moxen. I count 62 cards, so it could be beacuse budget concerns, but it looks strange.

    Thanks, Jaime.

    • Jaime, thank you for your email. I have updated the document and sent out an updated copy with the correct Doomsday list.

      The Trisk-Copy deck is correct. It did not utilize full Moxen.

  • Stephen Menendian

    The Trisk-Copy deck was a bit strange, but it was the earliest documented 4 Workshop deck. I have managed to uncover many references to 4 Workshop decks in 1998, but no decklists as of yet. What do you think of my chapter?!

  • Dustin Espersen

    Great Chapter — I was surprised how much new stuff you were able to find even after all the content in the first 4 chapters.

    Love the re-animator deck with playsets of Nicol Bolas and Bazaar of Baghdad.

    Am also finding the summary of your “schools” / deck archetypes very interesting.

    -Dustin

    • Stephen Menendian

      Thanks Dustin!! I was surprised as well. this has been a real journey of discovery for me as well. I hope that people really enjoy this as much as you do!

  • Fernando Secco

    Stephen, is there any release date for the complete book? Or are you researching yet? I didn’t read any chapter because I’m waiting for the whole thing. 🙂

  • Stephen Menendian

    There is really no reason to wait for the whole thing, since all we will be doing is compiling the individual chapters together. And the full book will cost more than the individual chapters combined. I will be publishing one chapter at a time per month. When it is finished, we’ll sell the chapters individually or, for a premium, together.

    • Marko Urm

      I’d like to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the chapters. Thank you for the good read and please keep them going.

      • Stephen Menendian

        Thank you for the kind words. Please post your feedback on themanadrain.com so more readers can see your reponse!