Schools of Magic: History of Vintage – 2002

Stephen Menendian completes the first decade of the History of Vintage series with an epic chapter on the tumultuous changes, debates, and dramatic innovations of 2002. Read about the emergence of new strategies like MaskNaught, TnT, and Grow, and read about the heated debates between Patrick Chapin, Oscar Tan, Mark Rosewater and the broader Type I community. Learn about the tournament results that changed the metagame, and the creators and innovators behind them.

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2001 was defined by dramatic growth in the popularity and visibility of the Type I format. Online communities of interest spawned a player base online and energized the player base offline. The online Beyond Dominia “Tournament of Champions” was a marquee event that brought together the best minds around the globe to compete for glory and notoriety within the community. Tournament scenes such as Origins and GenCon emerged as national hubs, while Type I pockets were popping up across the US and overseas.

Fact or FictionThrough it all, one card overshadowed others – Fact or Fiction. The DCI’s pat explanation for Fact or Fiction’s restriction emphasized its functionality as a source of “card drawing, tutoring, and graveyard filling,” as well as its one blue mana cost, but neglected to mention the two things that truly set Fact or Fiction apart: it’s efficiency compared to already-restricted spells like Stroke and Braingeyser, and it’s utter domination of Type I tournaments.

Relative to long-feared engines like Necropotence or Tolarian Academy, Fact or Fiction’s tournament dominance was far more empirically evident. Necropotence fueled a broken combo deck, but was not overly represented or dominating (in terms of its performance) on the Magic Invitational. Similarly, Academy decks were by far the most popular choice on the Magic Invitational, but were only average performers. In contrast, Fact or Fiction decks won three straight Tournament of Champions, GenCon’s largest Type I tournament, and most of the large German Dülmen tournaments in 2001, not to mention countless small tournaments reported throughout the year. Fact or Fiction had been dominating Type I tournaments, and the new tournament scene left no doubt about it.

Restricting Fact or Fiction risked rewinding the format to the pre-Invasion metagame, except that Fact arrived one day removed from the day that Necropotence was restricted, the last card restricted in Type I. The restriction of Fact held within it the promise of yet another rebirth – a new format from the ashes of the old, or perhaps more accurately in terms of the aspirations of the player base, the old out of the ashes of the new. Many players hoped that the restriction of Fact or Fiction would return the format to where it was supposed to have been when Necropotence was restricted.

As of January 1 2002, the Type I Restricted List grew to 50 cards, the largest it had been since the creation of the format.
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