Price Of Progress: Where’s the Block Party?

Every year, the Magic: The Gathering Invitational is not only a chance to showcase the best players in the game, but, as it turns out, it’s also an opportunity to test out some of the off-the-wall cards and formats to come out of strange mind. In last year’s Invitational in Kuala Lumpur, the Duplicate Sealed…

Every year, the Magic: The Gathering Invitational is not only a chance to showcase the best players in the game, but, as it turns out, it’s also an opportunity to test out some of the off-the-wall cards and formats to come out of Mark Rosewater strange mind. In last year’s Invitational in Kuala Lumpur, the Duplicate Sealed portion of the event contained a number of original cards that were either years from seeing the light of day in an expansion set, or would never be made for some reason or another. This presented a difficult task for the competitors, to both evaluate these new cards and determine how well they interacted together and with existing cards. Some fared better than others at this task of figuring out how Mark Rosewater mind works (I lodged a solid 0-3 in this particular format).

One of the greatest successes of the Invitational in Kuala Lumpur, in my opinion, was the "wacky" constructed portion of the event: Block Party. Each competitor had to pick a block of expansion sets – either Ice Age/Alliances/Homelands, Mirage/Visions/Weatherlight, Tempest/Stronghold/Exodus, or Urza’s Saga/Legacy/Destiny – and construct a deck with cards only from that block, adhering to the particular block’s banned and restricted list. (For instance, Zuran Orb and Thawing Glaciers were banned in IA/AL/HL, and Squandered Resources was banned in MI/VI/WE.) Mark Rosewater greatest concern was that no one would chose to play a deck from a certain block, but as it turned out, his fears were unfounded. Each of the four blocks was represented by at least one of the sixteen competitors, and there were a variety of decks that did well.

I was the only one to play a deck from the Ice Age Block, and this is what I played:

Classic Necro

Main Deck:
4x Demonic Consultation
4x Necropotence
4x Icequake
3x Mind Warp
4x Knight of Stromgald
4x Abyssal Specter
2x Ihsan’s Shade
4x Soul Burn
4x Contagion
4x Dark Ritual

20x Swamps
3x Lake of the Dead

4x Dystopia
3x Serrated Arrows
3x Jester’s Cap
3x Dark Banishing
2x Infernal Darkness

Rationally, my reasoning was this: there has never been an environment in which Necropotence was legal where Necro wasn’t one of the best decks. Irrationally, my reasoning was this: I missed old-school Necro decks that used creatures to kill the opponent. I was tired of this Donate your Illusions of Grandeur nonsense, or even the Enduring Renewal/Goblin Bombardment/Shield Sphere Necro decks from PT-Chicago. I missed casting Knights of Stromgald and beating the opponent in the head with them. Simple as that.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a bad choice. I ended up going 3-0 with my Necro deck, beating Jon Finkel Rath Block Living Death deck, Koichiro Maki’s Rath Block Hatred deck, and Gary Wise Mirage Block Ertai’s Familiar deck. In addition to mine and these decks, there were a number of other decks from Rath Block including Humility Prayer, TradeAwakening, and
Blue/Black Control along with Bargain, Squirrel Prison, Wildfire, Replenish, and Suicide Black from Urza’s Block. What variety! That’s sixteen competitors playing twelve different decks, which is almost unheard of in the world of Magic.

So what became of this promising start?

Nothing, as far as I can tell.

I was hoping that it would become a new sanctionable tournament format or at the very least, become an option for local gaming stores’ Arena leagues. As of yet, though, the format has received no support from Organized Play and I think that’s a mistake. Here’s why:

– What’s one of the biggest complaints that you hear from Magic players? That WoTC prints sets too fast and they don’t let us use our older cards. This is becoming an even bigger issue with the emphasis on Block Constructed in the Pro Tour Qualifiers. The Mercadian Masques Block PTQ season is almost at an end and soon I’ll be stuck with four Thrashing Wumpuses, four Saproling Bursts, four Rising Waters, or whatever rares went in my Masques Block deck that aren’t quite good enough for Standard or Extended. Wouldn’t it be nice if WotC gave us a format where we could not only use these rares, but they were still good?

– I’ve been collecting cards since Ice Age. Little Johnny has only been playing since Mercadian Masques. There’s very little chance that Johnny can build a competitive Standard deck to play against me, and there’s almost no chance he can come up with a viable Extended deck. But Block Party? He as everything he needs to bring a Masques Block deck to the table, and it will likely be able to stand toe-to-toe with my Ice Age or Mirage Block deck.

– I’m not a serious collector, but there are plenty of people out there who get the same thrill that I get from playing competitively from making a great trade. If Block Party catches on, it could breathe new life into the secondary card market. When I was getting ready to hop on a plane to Kuala Lumpur, I had to stop by Neutral Ground and trade for and buy the craziest things: Abyssal Specters, Lakes of the Dead, Mind Warps, and Jester’s Caps. These are cards that I never expected to need again, and now I had a reason to get them and a chance to use them. That can’t be bad, right?

– Finally, I think the format will catch on. People will have their favorite decks together from the last PTQ season, and they’ll want to keep playing them. Remember that first PTQ that you played in with that Mirage Block Ophidian deck? Well you can play it again and chances are, it’s still just as good as you remembered it. There is something to be said for the power of nostalgia.

So if you’re listening, WoTC, where’s the Block Party?

Once again, please keep me in mind when casting your votes for the Magic: the Gathering Invitational, to be held this November in Sydney, Australia. Last year I submitted a great beatdown card designed by a reader, and your input on my Constructed decks was invaluable; if I’m invited again this year, I’d love the same sort of help and with any luck, we’ll do better and we’ll get our beatdown cards turned into reality.

(Editor’s Note: You need to go to http://www.wizards.com/sideboard/misidney_ballot.asp and vote David in RIGHT NOW. While you’re at it – and since you’ll have two left to cast after you vote in the King of Beatdown – why not also sponsor our other columnists, and vote for Nicholas Labarre and Donnie Gallitz while you’re at it? – The Ferrett, King of Being Beaten Down)

Until next time,

David Price
King of Beatdown
[email protected]