The following changes outlined below are being made to Eternal Central’s recommended Banned and Restricted Lists for Old School 94, Old School 95, and Old School 96 formats. All changes are going in to effect immediately as of this announcement (Saturday, September 7, 2019), for all Eternal Central events moving forward.
Maze of Ith is now unrestricted in Old School 94, 95, and 96
Maze of Ith was long considered a problem in the early days of Magic. Multiple copies in a deck were a massive obstacle for anything hoping to deal damage with creatures, and it was historically used in control decks and prison decks to solidify a defensive position, and then gain even more card and board advantage by being able to utilize more board sweepers (think more Wrath of Gods and Nevinyrral’s Disks to gain card advantage, and less cheap spot removal). This in turn led to a winnowing of successful aggressive strategies, longer games, and strengthened the position of blue-based decks, which did not really need the assistance in maintaining their lofty perch as the best and most efficient decks of the era.
One of Wizards of the Coasts’ admitted design mistakes over the past decade was Phyrexian mana, and especially the ability to remove colored casting cost requirements from effects historically restricted to one part of the “color pie,” as well as a significant reduction on mana costs. The cheaper the spell for the effect provided, the more efficient it becomes, and nothing is as efficient in Magic as effectively “free” (see: Mental Misstep, Gitaxian Probe, etc.). Maze of Ith provides a “free” and repeatable colorless way to remove creatures from combat. In certain decks this would be analogous to Dismember, which was a massive design mistake on the part of WotC. However, Maze of Ith does not remove the creature from play altogether, so for tempo purposes this is significantly different than Dismember.
The presence and availability of unrestricted Strip Mine in Eternal Central’s Old School formats potentially lessens the games that can grind to a halt with one or more Maze of Iths in play. While this does further incentivize more decks to play more copies of Strip Mine, our testing of different configurations of these cards, and different formats over the past year, has led us to believe that the ability to utilize more than a single copy of Maze can make for more potential options for deck designers, while still allowing compelling game play.
Maze of Ith is now unrestricted in our recommended rules for Old School 94, Old School 95, and Old School 96. As always, we will continue to monitor these formats and this change closely, and if Maze of Ith being unrestricted does more harm to these formats than good, this action may be reversed in time.
Demonic Consultation is now restricted in Old School 95 and 96
In a game fundamentally built upon variance, cards that reduce variance to a striking degree in Magic often find themselves abused, if they are very mana efficient and flexible. Demonic Consultation fits this description, and has proven quite abusable historically. It has been banned by the DCI in Type 1/Vintage since October 1, 2000 (which was a bit late to the game, given the dominance of Necropotence at the time).
Reanimator, Power Artifact Combo, Underworld Dreams Combo, and many flavors of Necropotence decks (among other strategies) in Old School 95 and 96 can all problematically leverage Demonic Consultation, allowing for a staggering degree of consistency. Consultation is the one common component between these decks which allows them to mulligan very aggressively and still enact their powerful games plans with speed and precision, narrowing the field of competitive decks in the Old School 95 and 96 formats. By reducing the number of cheap and efficient tutors available to these formats, we believe this will make these decks a bit less fast or consistent, restoring some measure of balance for other competitive strategies.
Some Thoughts on Recall in Old School Formats
Recall has been unrestricted in some other Old School rule sets over the past year. Having tested it plenty in the past few years in Eternal Central’s recommended rule sets, as well as others (Swedish, Atlantic, Pacific), we can confirm that Recall will definitely stay restricted in Eternal Central’s recommended rules for the near future.
Like Regrowth, Demonic Tutor, and the rest of the restricted cards that are most abusable in Old School formats, the presence of unrestricted Recall does nothing to allow for more compelling or thoughtful games. It reduces lines of play in decks that best abuse it to constantly set up patterns of quickly finding and repeatedly casting the rest of the best restricted cards, and looping these consistently to prevent the opponent from having any meaningful role in the game.
The presence of an unrestricted Recall also does nothing to open up Old School formats to a wider array of healthy decks. Recall is most abusable in entirely one-sided combo strategies like TwiddleVault (whether or not Time Vault is unrestricted, which is also unhealthy) or Underworld Dreams Combo, as well as top-tier control decks like URx Control and The Deck. It turns out that leveraging your already abundant card advantage engines, and then trading away superfluous mana sources in the mid-game for a host of restricted cards and disruption usually leads to one-sided blowouts. Having the ability to do so early and often with multiple Recalls, rather than at just one penultimate point in a game, boosts these strategies significantly. This is the reason that the DCI restricted Recall in the first place in August 1994, and the same patterns demonstrate themselves again in the modern era. While it might make for more interesting The Deck vs. The Deck mirror matches from time to time, having Recall be more prevalent in Old School does nothing to help increase the overall health of these formats.
As always, we will continue to monitor these formats and the updates above closely, and make changes whenever we feel it is necessary for the holistic health and balance of these formats.