How Type One Became More Accessible And Evolved

As the “spark-plug” who got proxy tournaments started, let me provide some history. Most of you probably won’t remember this period in Vintage history, so let me set the stage. It was late 2000. The global metagame was very loosely defined. Europe had far fewer tournaments than it does today, and there was absolutely nothing in New England, save some sanctioned thing in the bowels of Massachusetts. The biggest Type One spots in the U.S. were the Richmond Comix and the Neutral Ground New York. The format has come a long way since then, and it’s important to understand why.

As the “spark-plug” who got proxy tournaments started, let me provide some history. Most of you probably won’t remember this period in Vintage history, so let me set the stage. It was late 2000. The global metagame was very loosely defined. Europe had far fewer tournaments than it does today, and there was absolutely nothing in New England, save some sanctioned thing in the bowels of Massachusetts. The biggest Type One spots in the U.S. were the Richmond Comix and the Neutral Ground New York.

For those people, they had an established environment, which had their own ways of evolving. For the rest of us, we had very little way of experiencing the true flow of Type One outside of reading reports, playing against whatever showed up locally, or playing Apprentice. With so few people actually interested in Type One, the environment that was pretty well set in stone was Keeper, Academy, Suicide Black, Sligh, Parfait, and Mono-Blue (one deck from each mono-color). And why would anyone be interested in the format? We had just come hot off the heels of NecroDonate, Fact or Fiction hadn’t been restricted yet, the format was underdeveloped, and most damaging was the misconceptions that Type One was a turn 1 format which hinged on die-rolls.

Personally, I had been playing the format as much as I could, but there was no regular tournament scene. Even if that were true, there was certainly no one else powered which meant tons of creature-based decks that automatically lost to Oath. Most of the time, I could win with just about anything from Nether Void to White Weenie. To give you an idea how bad things were, the following deck was successful locally.

Holy Tommy Gun (shamefully, yet with pride) by Steve O'Connell


4 Savannah Lions

4 Soltari Preists

4 Order of Leitbur

2 Soltari Monk

4 Paladin En-vec


4 Lightning Bolt

4 Incinerate

2 Seal of Cleansing

1 Enlightened Tutor

1 Balance


4 Land Tax

4 Empyrial Armor

2 Scroll Rack


8 Plains

2 Undiscovered Paradise

1 Mountain

1 Library of Alexandria

4 Plateau

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Diamond

1 Black Lotus

To add to this, since no one else owned power, there was far little interest in the format locally. The best games I could get most days were on IRC until a chat with the owner of Concord Card and Memorabilia got my head working.

I had heard of proxies before. People used them all the time for testing and for space holders, but I had never actually witnessed a tournament occur where proxies would be permitted. I had thought about why we wouldn’t want proxies, and the answer I could best come up with was that stores wouldn’t make money off proxied singles. However, this wasn’t applicable in our case, since there was not only relatively little power in the area, but the biggest and best shop locally didn’t have a single Mox in stock.

The Proxy

I pitched the idea of a tournament that would be fun and quick (since this was Type One and games end on turn 1 right?). We would allow players to make fakes of any of the power 10 and adhere to the Type One banned and restricted list. The owner is like an uncle to me, so he would let me do almost anything I wanted in his store, so the idea wasn’t terribly hard to sell him on. I doctored up a flyer, advertising an Italian Mana Drain for first place and packs for 2nd through 4th.

We started just allowing proxies of the power 10. The idea was fresh enough that everyone in the area attended. People who used to play with us years ago suddenly showed up out of the woodwork, breaking out old Legends and Arabian Nights cards they had been dying to play with. A few experienced players mixed with the uninitiated made for a fun mix of players and accomplished the one goal I had in mind: there was an interest in the format that I loved the most.

I also held the second proxy event in the same manner. I had advertised the tournament on Bdominia.com and to my delight I had out-of-state people traveling to play in the event. This time, since the success of the first event paid off so well, I put a Mox Pearl up for first. Since other people from Bdominia had attended, there were more reports written, which meant word would spread. Soon, I had heard of Hadley, MA running non-proxy events.

I had attended the third event in Hadley, and they were still running the Type One tournaments as zero-proxy events. The very next time there was a tournament, they had applied the proxy system. The amount of people who own 1-4 pieces of power is actually quite amazing. Because of this, Hadley followed suit with proxy tournaments, they eventually allowed five proxies after a few tournaments which became the standard. While five proxies didn’t fully support those who owned nothing in terms of power, it was more flexible for people who might only own four power cards or who might need to proxy Workshops, Bazaars, or Masks.

The big advantage to this five proxy rule was that it still attracted new Type One players (you may be way too new to the scene to remember the minute amount of players and Type One events only three years ago), while still keeping the store owners who ran the events in the singles market. What five proxies effectively did was add more power cards to the card pool.

How proxies affected the format over the long run

If you read back to my description of how Type One was, you’ll remember that there were three major hindrances to the format. First was the barrier of cost of entry. The second hindrance was the misconceptions that the format had. Lastly, there was the poorly established metagame.

With the rise of proxy tournaments, for many people the cost of entry was obviously dramatically reduced. Also, because players were allowed to play with the cards they never could afford before, it attracted players who were doing little more than just testing the waters. Once they had their first real Type One experience, the rumors of Vintage being a one-turn format were often dispelled. The most indirect, but most important solution proxy tournaments provided was that it promoted innovation.

In the short span of a few months, more people were playing the format because it was now accessible. Once more people were showing up to tournaments with “powered” decks, the auto-wins for the existing Type One regulars were suddenly challenges. Not only that, but players who play Extended and Standard started porting archetypes into Vintage, either with success or failure. Finally, with more creativity being brought to the format, truly powerful cards (like Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad) were being abused.

Perhaps the most odd, but understandable side-effect of proxy tournaments is the cost of Type One staples rising. Part of that has to do with the Euro versus the Dollar, but a lot of that has to do with Mishra’s Workshops, the Power 9, and Dual Lands being in exponentially more demand. Why is this so strange? In short, because we are now using fake cards, real cards have more than doubled in price.

What kind of tournaments YOU should hold

Now that I’ve given you the brief history of proxy Vintage tournaments, you may have a more clear idea on how the effect can be positive. There are varying levels of Type One tournaments to this day, as the standard hasn’t been implemented universally.

There are still areas that do not allow proxies. Playing in these kinds of environments reminds me of these old “before there was a Type Two” tournaments I used to play in. There were three types of players:

1) The terrible – They could build a mediocre deck with the cards they had, or at least trade up to something playable. However, they did not. Whether it’s a nine-year old kid who wants nothing more than to cast his Lord of the Pit or a dad who just hasn’t grasped the game yet, you won’t completely fix them with proxies.

2) The dominant – To us, he was that guy who worked a full-time job and still lived at home. He was able to muscle many players out of a tournament with heavy hitters like Moat, The Abyss, and Mana Drain.

3) Everyone else – He had staple rares and built decent decks. Sometimes he beat the dominant, but it wasn’t a regular occurrence. Kird Apes and River Boas just can’t compete with The Abyss.

Little has changed from this in a zero-proxy event.

1) The terrible – The game will always have these in every format.

2) The dominant – They have the power cards and because of this have an inherent advantage over everyone else.

3) Everyone else – They still have the men that swing for two.

4) The haters – The number of “dominant” people that are in a given environment is directly indicative of how many haters will be there. No one plays a hate deck to beat one player, but if you have 25% of the players locally powered, it might be something a smart player would consider.

The bottom line is that with zero proxies, you’re either very limited or have a gross advantage over people who are limited. With zero proxies, the power level of the environment is really indicative over what performs. To this day, the biggest complaint of Type One is often the cost of the decks that make up the upper tier. The major problem with zero proxies isn’t that there will be un-powered players, it’s that the environment will not be made up of the best possible decks that any given player could build. If we work off of simple logic…

  • The best cards in Type One are expensive or require expensive cards to be effective. Agree? Good.

  • The best cards are components of the best decks. Agree? Good.

  • If cards are expensive, some players will not own these. Agree? Good.

  • If some players do not own the best cards, they cannot possibly build the best decks. Agree? Good.

  • The best environments have the best possible competition. Agree? Good.

  • If a given environment consists of decks that aren’t the best decks, the environment doesn’t have the best possible competition. Agree? Good.

How do the Top 8’s look? Better yet, how will the Top 8’s translate to the rest of the Type One world? Below is something I wrote on TheManaDrain while discussing the effect of proxies.

Are we in a 20 person metagame with 2 powered players? Then you’ll see less hate budget decks and the top 8 will almost always look like (in no order):

Powered Deck #1

Powered Deck #2

Budget Deck #1

Budget Deck #2

Budget Deck #3

Budget Deck #4

Budget Deck #5

Budget Deck #6

Are we in a 40 person environment with 15 people being powered? You’ll see more hate decks and have a top 8 looking more like this (again, in no order):

Powered Deck #1

Powered Deck #2

Powered Deck #3

Powered Deck #4

Powered Deck #5

Budget Deck #1

Hate / Budget Deck #1

Hate / Budget Deck #2

Or are we in some place like Italy where you have like 200 players, with probably 40% being powered? Budget and Hate decks can’t do that well over too many rounds, so they naturally drop off below the T8 cut off.

Powered Deck #1

Powered Deck #2

Powered Deck #3

Powered Deck #4

Powered Deck #5

Powered Deck #6

Powered Deck #7

Hate / Budget Deck #1

Even though the Italian and German tournaments produce a Top 8 that is relevant in terms of power, I believe that it is harmful to the development of the format in Europe to allow people to run without proxies. In order to share my belief, however, you need to have the same vision as I do for Vintage. My vision has always been to produce a more accessible and balanced format. My vision of the format differs from others. It differs in that they would rather have an environment where some players have an innate advantage, while others have the “extra challenge” of beating powered decks without actually owning power.

With unlimited proxies, you get no deck building hinderances. With no hinderances, you’ll naturally see more “Decks to Beat”. The top 8 (in no particular order) would likely look like this:

Powered Deck #1

Powered Deck #2

Powered Deck #3

Powered Deck #4

Powered Deck #5

Powered Deck #6

Powered Deck #7

Budget/Hate Deck #1

While this is ultimately good for the format, it’s not economically sound. Like it or not, the people who make money off of this game are the backbone of the game. Without the storeowners, we would have far fewer tournaments. Without Wizards, we wouldn’t have a game at all. While I certainly appreciate the sentiment that people have trouble affording $2500 worth of cards to augment their decks, I absolutely cannot fathom letting people get away with not paying for a $7 fetchland.

I can appreciate full access to every card thereby “transcending the game” (™ JP Meyer), so that things like costs of cards and what-not can be forgotten about, however I would like to pay three cents for the rares for my block deck too, and that’s never going to happen. That said, full-proxy tournaments should have some sort of limitations. Fine, proxy your Black Lotus and Old Man of the Sea, but don’t let anyone get away with being too lazy to find a Naturalize!

With 5 or 10 proxies, it’s like you bought every player 5 (or 10) power-cards and let them build off of that. Now if you count people with 1-4 power cards as un-powered, you close the gap from the 2 out of 20 example (or 4 out of 40) and the 15 out of 40 example. On any given 40 Person tournament, you’ll have 15 people who are now fully-powered or really damn close and a bunch of people who can now opt to try and make 5 proxies work in a powered deck (via watering down the deck or borrowing power from another player since the loaner can proxy a loaned Mox) or opt to make a powered version of a budget deck (see Fish and Food Chain Goblins).

With every deck packing power and there being far too many powered decks to effectively hate against (beyond slapping Null Rods in your deck and hoping for the best), the number of hate decks will naturally drop to the point where it’s not a steady occurance of hate decks to appear in the top 8.

Here, in an average 40 person (5 or 10 -proxy) metagame, the t8 looks remarkably like:

Powered Deck #1

Powered Deck #2

Powered Deck #3

Powered Deck #4

Powered Deck #5

Powered Deck #6

Powered Deck #7

Budget / Hate Deck #1

A Word About Compatibility

A zero-proxy event with a medium powered to non-powered ratio would only be compatible to others just like itself, with semi-relevancy to semi-relevancy to zero-proxy event with a low powered to non-powered ratio. Also, it would have semi-relevancy to zero-proxy event with a high powered to non-powered ratio. Clearly, since the compatibility of proxy events has more event types than many zero-proxy events, it becomes the most universalized format of Type One tournaments.

Meanwhile, a zero-proxy event with a low powered to non-powered ratio would only be compatible to itself, with only semi-relevancy to zero-proxy event with a medium powered to non-powered ratio.

Without nitpicking about whether there’s more control, aggro-control, metagame decks, or combo decks, a partial proxy event would yield results that are most comparable to other partial proxy like itself, events that run full-proxies, zero-proxy events with a high powered to non-powered ratio, and semi-relevancy to zero-proxy event with a medium powered to non-powered ratio.

My personal preference is to allow ten proxies to really cover most of your bases. Stephen Menendian mentioned (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/expandnews.php?Article=7149) thirteen proxies to cover your power 9 and four of any insanely priced chase-rares like Workshop or Bazaar. I believe this is a great alternative as well.

Evidence of Advancement

Mid-2002, the earlier times of proxy tournaments the stagnant, the death of BDominia.com, the birth of TheManaDrain.com, and the rise of real innovation in Type One.

Remember the metagame I defined for you earlier? Keeper, Academy, and one mono-color deck for each color? A sample Top 8 from this period in Germany looks like this:

1) Tools N Tubbies (Artifact Fat with Survival of the Fittest for utility men)

2) Army of Squirrels (U/G Control with Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest combo)

3) Tools N Tubbies

4) Tools N Tubbies

5) Tools N Tubbies

6) Living Death.dec

7) Mono-Blue

8) Keeper

Tools N Tubbies really was the first proverbial shot to Vintage’s head. In short, it gave Keeper fits, forcing it to run more than a single Swords to Plowshares and The Abyss. Mono-Blue couldn’t draw cards with Ophidian against it and Morphling was pretty much neutralized by Goblin Welder’s ability, Mono-Black had to cope with the fact that the opponent was resolving spells (which it couldn’t), and Sligh just couldn’t race it. This really started an avalanche in Type One in terms of chaos. Because, for the first time in quite a long time, an aggro deck was king of the hill, combo started becoming played.

Late-2002, the popularity surge in Type One.

Here is a sample top 8 from this period in Germany (Morphling.de is really handy for old top 8 lists).

1) U/G Gro

2) URPhid

3) Keeper

4) Suicide

5) Army of Squirrels

6) Suicide

7) Tools N Tubbies

8) U/B Trix

As I mentioned above, combo really had an effect on the longevity of Tools N Tubbies. Control evolved and stayed relevant, meanwhile Suicide capitalized on the downfall of Tools N Tubbies. This is roughly the point where Gro started making its mark on the Vintage map.

Mid-2003, they just printed Onslaught which introduced fetchlands.

1) Gro-a-Tog (U/B/g Gro with Psychatog)

2) Super Gro

3) Gro-a-Tog

4) Gro-a-Tog

5) Suicide

6) Gro-a-Tog

7) Gro-a-Tog

8) Sligh

Hideous, isn’t it? The important (and relevant to my point) thing to notice here is that this Gro-a-Tog dominance was everywhere. It was everywhere because it could be built easily in a five-proxy metagame. While this might lead you to think “…but Steve, how is it a good thing that people had easy access to the most disturbingly broken deck in recent Type One history?”

That’s easy. Proxy environments spread the plague of this deck, which drew more attention to it. With so much attention to this monster, more players played it in tournaments that Wizards paid attention to. With so much attention on this monster, more players voiced their thoughts to Wizards of the Coast R&D. Also note: this is the first time that a deck was broken in Type One that wasn’t broken in another format first (sure Gro was great in Extended, but it didn’t make an obvious Vintage translation like Necro Trix and Academy were).

My next update would have been late-2003, then mid-2004. The major milestone is that many metagames translate better with each other and we have proxies to thank for it. Proxies carried the Extended players who already owned the dual lands and Force of Wills. Proxies opened the doors to Vintage to those who would have never played it otherwise. Proxies allow the player from New England or Ohio to discuss Vintage with a player from France or Germany. Proxies made the format have no room for a lower tier of decks. There have been a lot of factors that have contributed to the well-being, advancement, and popularity of Vintage, but proxies made it all possible.