The Main Phase – Party Like It’s 1996

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Monday, September 8th – You kids today have it so easy… You and your fancy ‘stack.’ Back in the day, we didn’t even have a stack. We had batches, and we liked it! If only we had these fancy shmancy post-Sixth Edition rules at our disposal, we could show you what for. Then we’d really see who’s boss.

You kids today have it so easy…

You and your fancy ‘stack.’ Back in the day, we didn’t even have a stack. We had batches, and we liked it!

Paris mulligans? Ha! You wish! We played with the ‘all-land or no-land’ rules. It was the Wild West back then, boy, I tell you what. Six spells and a Thawing Glaciers? Too bad, there’s no going back. Good luck with that.

And ‘Interrupts?’ Yeah, you weren’t there. You just wouldn’t understand. If you cast a Grizzly Bears today and it gets Memory Lapsed, it gets Memory Lapsed. No, you don’t get to Brainstorm in response. Chew on that for a while.

If only we had these fancy shmancy post-Sixth Edition rules at our disposal, we could show you what for. Then we’d really see who’s boss.

Well guess what, folks? Time for the old geezers to dust off the old shoe boxes from so long ago and for the young ‘uns to go out and buy a used copy of Shandalar, because the Type 2 championship is coming … circa 1996, that is.

That’s right, Pro Tour number 1… Part 2.

Why? Because it’s August, the dog days of the Magic calendar. Block season is over, Standard is an irrelevant format (save for your local FNM), Extended won’t start for a few months , and if we draft any more SSE we might just die. Really, what else do you have to do?

Besides, this is one of the few unexplored formats in Magic’s history. That tournament barely even scratched the surface of what was possible. For example, of the decks that made Top 8 at Pro Tour 1, not a single one of them played Brainstorm. No one thought Sligh was good enough to play. Only a single Necropotence deck made it to the Top 8, and that build was pretty darn bad. Cards like the Urza-tron, Portent, and Baron Sengir went largely ignored. If we use the knowledge that we know now, maybe we can break a 12-year-old format. And who doesn’t want to do that?

The idea here is to get a large enough group of people interested in order to get a side event together for Worlds, maybe even with prize support (here’s to hoping).

The format is the same as the very first Pro Tour. Here are the rules:

* You must use only cards from Fourth Edition, Chronicles, Fallen Empires, Ice Age, and Homelands.

* You must use at least five cards from each of the sets in your deck. These cards can be either in your main deck or sideboard. This is commonly referred to as ‘New York Style’ Standard.

* The banned and restricted list is the same as it was in January of 1996. Here is what is and isn’t allowed:


Mind Twist
Amulet of Quoz
Bronze Tablet
Jeweled Bird
Tempest Efreet
Timerian Fiends


Feldon’s Cane
Ivory Tower
Black Vice
Zuran Orb

Simple enough, right? Ah, but here’s the twist:

* Other than the above rulings, this tournament will be played with the current rule set. Meaning that it will be Swiss rounds, not single elimination like the good ol’ days, and things such as the ‘stack’ and the Paris Mulligan will be in effect. Oh, and don’t worry about Interrupts. They don’t exist anymore.

Sounds like fun, no? Okay, let’s get started.

You can’t build upon a format without a good foundation. Let’s take a look at some of the best decks from that era.

Michael Loconto
Pro Tour: New York, First Place

4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Island
4 Mishra’s Factory
7 Plains
1 Ruins of Trokair
1 Strip Mine
2 Svyelunite Temple
1 Wizard’s School
1 Feldon’s Cane
2 Fountain of Youth
2 Icy Manipulator
1 Ivory Tower
1 Jayemdae Tome
3 Millstone
1 Zuran Orb
1 Balance
2 Blinking Spirit
4 Disenchant
2 Hallowed Ground
2 Land Tax
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Wrath of God
2 Control Magic
4 Counterspell
1 Deflection
1 Recall

2 Aeolipile
1 Jester’s Cap
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Divine Offering
1 Control Magic
2 Hydroblast
2 Sea Sprite
2 Steal Artifact

Yes, that is a singleton Strip Mine when you were allowed to play four. Yes, that is a pair of Fountain of Youths… in the main. Yes, that is Millstone as the main win condition.

Yes, this deck won the first Pro Tour.

As much as I poke fun at this list, it did have a lot going for it and there are a few interesting things to be learned from the deck. First, it’s basically creatureless thanks to its main win condition of Millstone, meaning that the Wrath of Gods, Pyroclasms, and Swords to Plowshares in opponent’s hands were next to useless.

In addition he made some inspired sideboard choices, my favorite of which is a single Jester’s Cap. The Cap is a great card for not only the mirror, able to remove all of the won conditions (read: Millstone) in an opponent’s deck, but also able to remove the all-important (at least at that time) Feldon’s Cane from a control player’s arsenal.

Of course, the real all-stars of the first Magic Pro Tour were not from the main event… rather, they were in the Juniors’ division.

Graham Tatomer
Pro Tour New York, Juniors First Place

4 Dark Ritual
3 Demonic Consultation
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Icequake
3 Necropotence
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
2 Paralyze
3 Sengir Vampire
1 Ivory Tower
3 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Zuran Orb
4 Mishra’s Factory
18 Swamp
2 Strip Mine

I couldn’t find the sideboard he used, but I imagine it included some amount of Gloom, Terror, and possibly Deathgrip. This deck is a strategy that utilizes a card that Inquest Magazine called “The worst card in Ice Age,” Necropotence. This type of deck was capitalized upon by many people throughout the rest of 1996 and lead to the ‘Black Summer,’ which (thanks to a few cards in the next set, Dystopia and Contagion) eventually ended with the banning of Necropotence. While able to defeat the control decks on pure card advantage, it did have some trouble with aggressive style decks. Fortunately, there were not many at the first Pro Tour that January.

One of the aggressive decks that didn’t show up at the first Pro Tour is the Sligh deck. It didn’t come into popularity until much later, but it probably would have been pretty decent in the Type 2 metagame back then.


4 Orcish Captain
4 Brass Man
4 Dwarven Soldier
4 Ironclaw Orcs
4 Incinerate
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Brothers of Fire
3 Orcish Artillery
3 Shatter
2 Goblin Balloon Brigade
2 Fireball
1 Black Vise

10 Mountain
4 Dwarven Ruins
4 Mishra’s Factory
4 Strip Mine

Using cards that no one ever thought would see top level play (Dwarven Soldier, are you kidding me?), this type of deck proved to be a solid performer throughout Magic’s long and storied history. The idea, of course, is to quickly beat down on your opponent, keeping them off balance with timely Shatters, Strip Mines, and burn, and killing them as quickly as possible.

One type of deck that I want to experiment with in this format is a sort of Green Red Big Mana deck:

G/R Big Mana circa 1996

4 Nature’s Lore
4 Fellwar Stone
4 Incinerate
4 Johtull Wurm
4 Tinder Wall
3 Pyroclasm
3 Stormbind
2 Desert Twister
2 Shivan Dragon
2 Earthquake
2 Autumn Willow
1 Fireball
1 Tranquility

5 Forest
4 Dwarven Ruins
4 Mishra’s Factory
4 Havenwood Battleground
4 Karplusan Forest
3 Koskun Keep

4 Crumble
3 Ernham Djinn
3 Fog
3 Tranquility
1 Earthquake
1 Pyroclasm

I love playing a giant monster, especially when that giant monster is a… Johtull Wurm? Hey, a 6/6 for 6 can’t be that bad, and right after a Pyroclasm it’s pretty darned good. Obviously, Tinder Wall, Nature’s Lore, and Fellwar Stone are your relatives of Wall of Roots, Into the North, and Prismatic Lens that let you power out giant animals like the Wurm as well as Autumn Willow and Shivan Dragon much quicker than normal. And what Big Mana deck would be complete without a miser’s X-spell?

These decks are probably a good place to start, but don’t stop there! There are many other good strategies out there waiting to be discovered and uncovered. One good example might be Ernham-Geddon, which got second place at the first Pro-Tour, capitalizing on the absurdly powerful combination of big and fast creatures with Armageddon. Stasis Lock decks are also quite powerful in this format, capitalizing on the power of cards like howling Mine and Ivory Tower to keep life totals high so you can win by decking your opponent. How much more is out there, waiting for you to click over to Gatherer and see what’s waiting for you? Here’s a taste: none of the decks I have listed here use Land Tax, Sylvan Library, Ball Lightning, Power Sink, Whirling Dervish, Ishan’s Shade, Icy Manipulator… the list goes on and on.

With any luck, we can get enough people together to make this happen. What better way to celebrate Magic’s birthday than with a tournament using the original cards at Worlds to commemorate the old days? This should be a ton of fun.

There’s a ton of room for innovation here. I think it’s about time we kicked it old school.


Reuben Bresler
Reubs in the forums
[email protected]
CleverMonikerMan on AIM

Current Playlist:

Kings of Leon — Sex on Fire
Mountain Goats — Stars Fell on Alabama
The Walkmen — The Blue Route
The Moondoggies — Ol’ Blackbird
Ratatat — Mirando