2003 was probably, no, definitely the best and most important year for Vintage, drawing many new players, changing the metagame drastically, and thanks to Stephen Menendian, Vintage actually developed a more predictable metagame.
It’s sort of like Extended on crack. The great change actually began with the release of Onslaught in the fall of 2002. The fetchlands spurred the first major change in Type One in a long time, as it changed deck building dramatically for all decks, not just combo and control, which were traditionally the only decks that could actually win that got any new toys.
Then Legions came. And, it um, gave Ninja Mask Phage the Untouchable. Scourge brought the ridiculous Mind’s Desire that was restricted before it even became legal. It also gave combo its new finisher of choice, Tendrils of Agony, prompting many players to freak out and request the restriction of the kill card, and not the engine that makes it good (in this case, Burning Wish and Lion’s Eye Diamond). Menendian informed the world before the Vintage Championships at GenCon that the deck is insane.
As a result, people played Rector Trix.
In many cases, without Tendrils.
Anyway, Tendrils was really good, and people who had been getting smashed playing Reanimate/Phage decks rejoiced at the release of Stifle, one of the major sleeper cards of the set.
Then the Type One community finally got what they wanted, a Type One Grand Prix, er, I mean Championship. Personally, I had a grand time at said Grand Pr… Championship. There was quite a bit of controversy over my victory, which was really annoying. I had many people questioning my skill, to which I responded by not winning a local Type One tourney for two months.
My teams, the Paragons of Vintage and the now famed Team Mean Deck, stood by me however and made people acknowledge my greatness. That was cool. It took me a really long time to get my rendition of Black Lotus, painted by none other than Christopher Rush. It did arrive, and after asking many people I know to loan me a digital camera to take a picture of it, I still haven’t gotten to do so, which is a shame because I’d like to share it with everyone as it’s really quite amazing looking.
The aftermath of the championship was a much, much more defined metagame with many, many viable archetypes. Hulk originally stood out as the primary contender for”Best Deck,” finally taking Keeper off it’s throne and throwing it to a curb, where it now deals in stolen watches and long-haired cats to pay it’s rent for the apartment in the Philippines down the street from Oscar.
Burning Academy eventually became popular, and by popular I mean Stephen went on, and on, and on about how amazing it was and how it was dominating the metagame. No one listened, as they were unable to stay awake long enough to reach page fifty-four of his article where he discussed the deck. Stephen and a few others (myself included), began to play the deck more often, and people became more and more worried about the deck’s power, and by worry, I mean people didn’t really listen and pointed out the deck’s weakness to the deck’s bane, Stormbind (Sorry Stephen).
During all this combo mania, Workshop decks and control (Keeper and Hulk, I don’t consider U/R Phid to be control) were still popping up a lot, leading to Type One players everywhere calling for the restriction of Mishra’s Workshop and Mana Drain/Morphling. However, the new cool thing to do was to play Decree of Justice in Keeper, an uncounterable way to make lots of fun Britney Spears tokens. It was about then that Stifle began to become more and more popular.
I’d like to think I was the person who made it”okay” to play with it, as I Top 8’d a few large tournaments in Waterbury, CT with as many as three copies of the wacky counter in my unorthodox control decks. I’d write more about the Workshop decks, but despite being a member of Team Mean Deck, I have next to no experience building or playing them. Although I remember Stephen and a few others yelling at people, telling them Workshop wasn’t too broken, and didn’t warrant restriction. I seem to remember the people who argued against restriction usually were the people that owned multiple Workshops. Coincidence? I think not.
Worldgorger combo decks, inspired by Richard Mattiuzo’s Championship deck, began to pick up in popularity, leading to many heated debates over which broken combo deck was superior. Judging by the January restrictions, I’d say Burning Academy won out.
The format change that Onslaught block spurred was nothing compared to the next base set released; Mirrodin. Mirrodin brought us a large list of playable, and even some borderline broken cards. At first, I believed Chalice of the Void to be the stand out card of the set, being a powerful hoser against a variety of decks, while allowing you to play around it and minimize its effect on you. Many people complained that Chalice was the end of Type One as we knew it, ruining a variety of decks, and making budget aggro virtually unplayable. As it turned out, many decks really weren’t hurt that badly. Burning Academy in particular, being the most heavily affected by Chalice, found ways around it, and budget decks were unplayable anyway. Who knew?
The next”big thing” was Isochron Scepter. Again, people heralded this as the end of Type One, seeing as how recurring Mana Drain and Orim’s Chant were effectively game over. While this wasn’t the case, it was still a very popular card, seeing much play, especially in the New England”Chronic” decks. All the while, I dismissed it as an awful card, and played the way most people played it, it really didn’t have any effect on the game. The only really good things to put under it were Fire / Ice, Brainstorm, and Accumulated Knowledge.
While yes, it’s fun to have infinite Fire’s and Brainstorm, it’s slow, clunky, and can lead to some hardcore card disadvantage unless you can activate it in the same turn, allowing you to hopefully achieve card parity if they kill it. That requires four mana. On your turn. What does this remind us of? Jayemdae Tome. Is Jayemdae Tome playable? I rest my case.
Yes, I didn’t mention Scepter on Ancestral Recall and Mana Drain because frankly, imprinting those in many circumstances is just awful. If you cast Ancestral, you’re winning(hopefully) anyway, and any smart player won’t let you get any more than one activation out of that Sceptered Mana Drain, making it a glorified Seal of Counterspell, sort of like Voidmage Prodigy, only you can’t attack with it and it’s got a better picture (though anything does).
All the while, there was a driving force behind the changes. The renewed interest in the format. The reason why Wizards is actually listening to us. It isn’t Oscar Tan. It isn’t Stephen Menendian (though he talks enough that Wizards can’t help but pick up something). The answer is www.TheManaDrain.com, owned and operated by Steve O’ Connell, a.k.a. Zherbus, a super powerful computer that cranks out Keeper lists every three months or so, yet unable to attend events because wheels have yet to be attached to his case.
TheManaDrain provided a decent forum, with many knowledgeable, respectful members who did all they could to help out newer players, build and actually playtest new decks and ideas, and pat me on the head while I remind myself and the world of how awesome I really am. [He’s super-awsome. – Knut, patting Carl on the head] Which is really awesome, in case you didn’t know. Unlike Beyond Dominia, which Oscar valiantly attempted to moderate and keep up on his own, Steve gathered himself an army of intelligent, diligent moderators who kept order on the site and weeded out the good from the bad. Without them, we’d likely have been forced to put up with debates over the superiority of Arcane Denial over Prohibit.
The site has undergone many changes over the past year. It originally started out as a refuge for those left behind after the demise of Beyond Dominia in early 2001, with a few forums for Type One discussion and a couple of random spamming forums for use by those with nothing constructive to say (such as myself). It evolved into a thriving discussion forum, with the addition of a tournament announcement and report forum which has been attributed to the success of countless Type One events, sanctioned and otherwise, all over the Type One playing world.
The addition of a basic user forum(at the time of it’s creation known as the”Newbie Forum”) gave those without a great deal of experience a place to learn the basics and over time, become full fledged members of the site. TheManaDrain had at it’s peak, a few thousand members, actively posting, sharing, entertaining, teaching, and learning, somewhat like The Dojo of old, except as a message board. I know it only covers Type One, but we are important too and we need love and attention from big papa Wizards.
This year promises to hold even more change and surprises with the release of two more sets from the Mirrodin block. TheManaDrain unfortunately crashed early this month, but is back, better than ever, thanks to the efforts of Steve and Jason Stapels, a resident of Johnson City, New York, who’s worked tirelessly to restore the forums and recover many of the threads from the old site. With TheManaDrain back in action, 2004 should be another great year for Type One, and offers many more opportunities to prove just how super awesome I really am.
Moderator on www.TheManaDrain.com
Member of The Paragons of Vintage
Member of Team Mean Deck
Reining Vintage World Champion and Super Awesome Guy