The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry Three: New York Format

New York Format was one of several formats used in an early Duelist Invitational. When a Snake Basket deck battled with an Elemental Augury deck in the finals of the Duelist Invitational, the Snake Basket deck emerged victorious. But it was Mike Long’s”Keeper” deck, the one with Elemental Augury, that became the foundation of the modern Type One control deck that Oscar Tan and others play today. All going back to a casual format deck played at an Invitational… And perhaps the most obscure casual format ever.

There is an interesting phenomenon in Magic that I have just recently identified despite my many years of playing; after looking back on my Magic life, I have realized that there is a winnowing effect with many players. Simply put, a lot of playgroups become more and more focused on things that they enjoy, and eliminate other formats or styles of play from their repertoire, which is part of the reason that The Compendium is being written.

Another reason is to bring to light new ideas long overlooked – like New York. Is there another format that has done so much for Magic and yet lies is such obscurity?

For the uninitiated, New York Format was one of several formats used in an early Duelist Invitational. It was never used again in any official events, and the popularity of the format has declined tremendously. I can remember a time when it used to be played occasionally, with mention in some websites; I recently performed several web searches for the style to see what was out there, and all I could come across was an old tournament report from that Duelist Invitational.

The short of it is this: New York Format used to be and is no more. Of course, the obvious question for most people is simply,”What is New York Format?”

New York Format required that four cards be used from each expansion set. At the time, Visions had just come out, which meant that there were exactly ten expansion sets that had been published at the time. And since the format used a sideboard, the four-card requirement had to be spread out between the sideboard and deck, thus allowing you to banish unruly sets to the sideboard… Like Homelands.

So when a Snake Basket deck battled with an Elemental Augury deck in the finals of the Duelist Invitational, the Snake Basket deck emerged victorious. But it was Mike Long’s”Keeper” deck, the one with Elemental Augury, that became the foundation of the modern Type One control deck that Oscar Tan and others play today. All going back to a casual format deck played at an Invitational.


Of course, the format has changed over the years. Now you have a much larger task in front of you, and most playgroups won’t let you store chaff sets in a sideboard. A deck today is much larger, and we have to modify the rules for a more casual environment. However, building a deck under modern New York rules is quite a challenge – a challenge that many find to be quite enjoyable. So without further ado, let’s tear into the rules we will need for Neo-New York.

Four Cards From Every Set. Kinda.

So how does this four-card requirement work? First of all, the four-card count is a minimum, not a maximum. Feel free to play ten cards from a set if you need to. Oh yes, Portal, Unglued, and Chronicles do not count as sets. No cards to worry about there.

Secondly, only the initial basic set counts. So, in addition to having four cards from every expansion set, you must also have four cards from Alpha/Beta/Unlimited.

Thirdly, any given card may only count for one set, but it can be used for any set that it appeared in. So let’s say I have a 7th Edition Counterspell in my deck. I can have it count as one of my original set cards, Ice Age, Tempest, or Masques. It does not have to be an actual Masques Counterspell for me to count it as such.

Lastly, basic lands do not count against the total, so there’s no use trying to pass off those four swamps as your Mirage cards! Of course, non-basics count against the minimum.

Let me walk you through the process that I used to create my New York Format deck to play with others in my playgroup. That way, you can see how to create a deck in this style.

Building a New York-Style Deck

I started out with an idea. I have all of the cards for a Replenish/Opalescence deck. Playing a mean combo deck in casual will often declare you to be the Official Target for the rest of the night… But playing a combo deck with 150 cards and with unusual format restrictions can help to alleviate any problems.

I started with four each of Replenish and Opalescence. That more than filled my spots for Urza’s Destiny cards. I also played some of the basic cards for the deck – four Attunement, from Saga.

I wanted to keep my deck low on cards, and I quickly realized that one way of doing so was to play a healthy amount of non-basics. As such, I started pulling out non-basics to fill my deck. The initial idea was to ride blue and white all the way.

I tossed in three Bazaars of Baghdad that I had unused. I tossed in a City of Brass to fill out my Arabian Nights quota. Four Adarkar Wastes and that was it for Ice Age. I kept moving through sets and lands.

Then as I was looking at my cards, I realized a very important thing – I really needed another dimension to my deck if I was to win during the frequent multiplayer games that we have. Hmm. What to include?

After considering and discarding several ideas, I settled upon two of them: I knew that I would have to play four creatures from Legions, so I was initially planning on cycling creatures. However, I decided upon a different route: I tossed in Oath of Druids and four of the fatties from Legions. This would be a quick defense while also filling up my graveyard with goodies.

The other route I took was to add some enchantments that could help me out by allowing me to go turbo. Namely, I needed haste. I found a Pandemonium to take out one opponent and a Fervor to take out another and tossed them both in.

And now I have a four-color deck, so my mana base became even more important.

The struggles continued on. I added more enchantments, more search, and some defense in the form of countermagic and creature kill. I tossed in a Recoup so that if I Oathed too many Replenishes, I could just Recoup one back. Intuition became my tutor of choice.

Seal of Cleansing and Aura of Silence helped me clear the board of enchantments before attacking. Worship helped me to survive. Some Manlands were included just in case I needed to play more Oath-like… And after a lot of hemming and hawing, here was my final deck:

Abe’s Replenish New York Format Deck

Original Set:

1 Balance

1 Regrowth

4 Swords to Plowshares

2 Tropical Island

2 Tundra

1 Plateau

Arabian Nights:

3 Bazaar of Baghdad

4 City of Brass


3 Mishra’s Factory

1 Energy Flux


1 Concordant Crossroads

2 Sylvan Library

1 Karakas

The Dark:

2 Fellwar Stone

2 Maze of Ith

Fallen Empires:

1 Night Soil

2 Havenwood Battleground

1 Svyelunite Temple

Ice Age:

4 Adarkar Wastes


1 AEther Storm

1 Renewal

1 Aysen Abbey

1 An-Havva Township


1 Exile

3 Arcane Denial


4 Dissipate

1 Enlightened Tutor


4 Impulse

1 Undiscovered Paradise


1 Fervor

1 Ancestral Knowledge

2 Seal of Cleansing

1 Gemstone Mine


4 Intuition

2 Spirit Mirror


3 Mox Diamond

2 Mana Leak


3 Oath of Scholars

2 Oath of Druids

1 Pandemonium

Urza’s Saga:

4 Attunement

1 Worship

1 Angelic Chorus

Urza’s Legacy:

1 Levitation

3 Faerie Conclave

Urza’s Destiny:

4 Opalescence

4 Replenish


4 Counterspell


1 Parallax Wave

3 Seal of Cleansing


4 Foil


1 Rout

2 Fact or Fiction

2 Elfhame Palace


3 Treva’s Ruins

1 Rith’s Grove


4 Yavimaya Coast


4 Careful Study

1 Recoup


3 Far Wanderings

1 Circular Logic


2 Mental Note

1 Golden Wish

1 Living Wish


2 Aurification

3 Lonely Sandbar


3 Scion of Darkness

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Basic Lands:

1 Mountain

1 Forest

3 Islands

2 Plains

That’s a Lot of Rares!

One of the first comments that some have said while looking at my deck is that it’s a bit expensive… And they are absolutely right. This particular deck is expensive, but not every deck need be. Remember, I chose a theme to build a deck around that I already had the cards for. You might want to build a Sligh deck, or green beef, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

I initially thought that the older sets would be a problem when it came time to build a deck… After all, not everybody has a Library of Alexandria, a Maze of Ith, and so forth. But after taking a look at the early sets and seeing all of the cards that have been reprinted over time, I decided that it doesn’t seem like such a big deal once you get your head into it.

Is New York Format for everybody? I don’t know. What I can tell you is that it was a real challenge building a cohesive deck with the best possible cards. I kept wanting to go in one direction or another, and it took time to coordinate my card selections. Which sets would provide me with countermagic, mana, control, or enchantments? Simply put – it was a blast.

Others have reported having fun with it as well after I asked them to build decks. So, I recommend that you try it and see what happens. You never know!

Until later,

Abe Sargent