Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #196 – Old School in Classic

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Like most of the Magic world, I have been looking forward to Lorwyn. I have the spoiler. I also have written a lot of set reviews over the years — and I tend to get them wrong as often as right. I’m not going there. Instead, I’ll look at Magic Online’s old school, throwback set, and try an old school, throwback deck design to use those cards.

Like most of the Magic world, I have been looking forward to Lorwyn. I have the spoiler. I also have written a lot of set reviews over the years — and I tend to get them wrong as often as right. I’m not going there. Instead, I’ll look at Magic Online’s old school, throwback set, and try an old school, throwback deck design to use those cards.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I was probably not going to play in the MED release events. Last week, I talked about how I ended up playing in a sealed PE and a MED / 10th / 10th draft. I played in another — and won some packs. I bought six packs of MED from the store, and while I’m out of Tenth Edition packs, I have four MED packs left, at the moment, and have well over a thousand MED cards so far.

My secret to drafting the set is nothing special. I looked through my commons. I have 10-20 copies of Oubliette, a pile of Phyrexian Boons, and enough Fissures to equip a large glacier. I have many Hyalopterous Lemures, Yetis galore, and enough Paralyzes to immobilize the nearest town.

I have just one copy of Erg Raiders, and that came in a sealed pool. I love Erg Raiders. I drop a Paralysis on them, and my opponent either dies or is so badly slowed that I win easily.

I’m not going to waste a lot of time on triple MED drafting — it’s just a prelude. I will say that I love Red / Black, and I put a high premium on removal, pingers, and fliers. I have also done well with Green / Black or Green / Red when Red / Black is unavailable. I have had mixed success with Blue — usually winning about half the drafts, usually when my Blue fliers are paired with Green. All I can say about White is that I beat it very consistently.

This article started during one rather strange draft. I had just drafted a nice R/B deck, with Lightning Bolt. While waiting for the draft to shift over from the draft screen to the build screen, I was thinking about old school decks and Bolts.

I got more time to think about that than I expected. MTGO had been lagging all day, but this time the transition was really delayed. Then MTGO reported that it had lost connection to the server.

I was not too worried. The first thing I do when I enter a draft is copy down the draft number. I have rarely had a crash wipe out an event I am in, but in the few time I have over the years, I have always had the event number, and Wizards has always reimbursed me for lost product. Besides, normally the server comes back up in a couple of minutes and play resumes. No worries.

I popped up my browser, checked the Magic Online page on the flagship, and clicked on the MTGO Server Status button. After about a minute, I got a confirmation that the server was, in fact, down. It stayed down for about five minutes.

Eventually, I was able to log back on. The program fired, and I was looking at the duel screen, asking my opponent whether s/he wanted to play or draw.

Fine, except that we had crashed while waiting for the build screen, so I had never built a deck. I popped out of the duel and asked an adept what would happen. I got the canned “if you think you have lost product as a result of a crash, here’s the reimbursement link…” response. Not helpful, but the room was so busy I didn’t get a response to my follow-up questions. I had not lost product — I just lost the chance to build a deck. I went back to the duel.

I noticed that I had a 65-card deck. So did my opponent. MTGO simply added 20 lands to the 45 cards I drafted, and I was going to play them all. I decided, if I won a roll, to choose to draw first — I figured consistency would be more important than speed.

I also assumed I had another advantage. I like the old Beta land pictures, and the old card frames. Therefore, whenever a pack has nothing vaguely useful, I take the basic land. I had drafted a half dozen or so, so my deck would have a higher proportion of lands — meaning I was less likely to be mana screwed. I could be color screwed, of course, but I was more likely to be able to drop something.

I thought about this a bit, then went back to musing about old school decks. I had drafted a Hymn to Tourach. That card is brutal. Ingrid was very proficient about opening with Swamp, Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach back in the day.

My opponent never made it back. The game timed out and we went to sideboarding. I built my deck — 40 cards – then saved it. It would make sideboarding easier. I finished sideboarding, and waited. My opponent never did show, so sideboarding closed out after five minutes, and I had another five minutes of waiting for my opponent to choose to play or draw, before he timed out and I won the match.

I was thinking about Ritual / Hymn, and the other turn 1 play that annoyed me no end: Swamp, Ritual, Hypnotic Specter. I should note that this was back in the days when we each had maybe 80 cards and played almost all of them. I had a Birds of Paradise. Ingrid had just one Hyppie and only a couple of Rituals. She didn’t get turn 1 Ritual, Hyppie all that often, but I remember a lot of games where she did. I also remember randomly discarding the answer to Hyppie far too often, because I needed another turn before I could cast it.

I wondered whether Ritual, Hymn and Hyppie could work online. It would have to be classic — that’s the only format in which the cards are legal.

Classic was dominated by Flash and anti-Flash Fish decks — at least they were last time I looked. However, that was before Wizards restricted Flash and Vampiric Tutor. That was also before Masters Edition. It would be interesting to try out the format now.

Even with Flash restricted, I expected a lot of combo. A rational deck design to utilize Hymn would probably be Blue/Black, with Force of Will, Brainstorm, Stifle, etc. So far, I have one Force of Will and no Stifles. Also no Vindicates or Meddling Mages. Besides, I wanted to play a classic, old school, throwback sort of deck. I wanted Hyppies, Hymns, Dark Ritual, and Lightning Bolts.

I wasn’t too sure that such an approach could work, but I had time to spend wondering about it. My second round opponent also failed to appear, and I won round 2 without playing a spell.

The deck would not be pure antique, of course. For one thing, I did not want to simply lose. Sure, straight R/B decks have done well in the past. Here’s an example:

Andre Konstanczer
Pro Tour: Rome 1998 Top 8

2 Lake of the Dead
4 Wasteland
4 Badlands
2 Bad River
2 Sulfurous Springs
9 Swamp

2 Sedge Troll
1 Sengir Vampire
4 Knight of Stromgald

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
2 Yawgmoth’s Will
4 Drain Life
2 Firestorm
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Duress
3 Demonic Consultation
3 Contagion

2 Meltdown
1 Spinning Darkness
4 Bottle Gnomes
4 Pyroblast
2 Dread of Night
2 Perish

The world has changed a bit since then. That deck also includes a lot of cards that are not available online.

Some stuff is easy to replace. Sedge Troll is Sedge Sliver. Knight of Stromgald can be easily replaced by Order of Leitbur. Firestorm is, well, coming with the rest of Weatherlight.

Necropotence is not online. Dark Confidant or Skeletal Scrying are not in the same league, but Bob is what we have, so we play it.

Most importantly, Demonic Consultation is not legal. Sure would be nice, though.

That would be a bit slow, and it is not able to interact with some of the modern graveyard and combo decks. Wasteland would help with that — but Wasteland is not available, either. Ghost Quarter could help — but only if people play zero basic lands. I need more experience with the new Classic before I make that call.

In the finals, I finally got to play a real opponent. As expected, drawing first, plus the extra lands, meant my 65-card pile beat his 65-card pile. Post sideboards the games were more intense. Game 2 was difficult. He was U/B/r, with four Hydroblasts and a Time Elemental. Game 2 went really long, but his Hydroblast nailed my Fissure, so his flier killed me one turn before I would have killed him. We both had Hymns, though, so I kept ruminating over the R/B Old School idea.

Game 3 was anti-climatic. He had the Time Elemental, and eventually got it going to bounce my only Swamp every turn. I had the Hymn, a Witch and two Oubliettes in hand — but I was never able to cast them.

I decided to build Old School. However, I wanted something better than Sengir Vampire as a finisher. I decided that I wanted some cheap fat — and more than a single copy, to help kill more quickly. The best fat, in any format at the moment, is Tarmogoyf. A Green splash for the Goyf seemed reasonable.

Adding the Goyf also gave me an excuse for adding cards like Seal of Fire, and even Urza’s Bauble. I started listing cards:

Seal of Fire
Lightning Bolt
Hymn to Tourach
Dark Ritual

Mogg Fanatic
Kird Ape
Dark Confidant
Hypnotic Specter
Nimble Mongoose

Umezawa’s Jitte
Chrome Mox (?)

Barbarian Ring (?)
Treetop Village (?)

This seemed somewhat familiar. After wondering about my sense of déjà vu for a while, I realized that it was comparable to the Legacy deck that won the side events tourney I ran at San Diego. Here’s that deck.

It would be great to be able to play with Phyrexian Negators, but Urza’s block won’t appear online for a while. I will also need to tweak the deck a bit, if I am going to run with Hyppies. Hyppies have double Black in the mana cost — and the decklist will have to be able to produce three mana, including double Black. That might mean ditching Kird Apes, if I cannot count on a Forest and Mountain on turn 2.

Another change — that deck predated the graveyard decks, like Cephalid Breakfast. Since many of the components to that deck are online, I probably need more play against the dredge decks. I think I need Mogg Fanatics for that role.

I also expect more combo, and fewer creature battles. I think the format may also be a bit faster. That means that I want more reactive cards, and fewer slow cards. I’m thinking that Jitte may fall into the “slow cards” category.

Here’s the initial test build.

Old School Meets the Hyppies

4 Seal of Fire
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Duress
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Dark Ritual
2 Call of the Herd

3 Mogg Fanatic
3 Kird Ape
4 Dark Confidant
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Tarmogoyf

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Polluted Delta
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
3 Blood Crypt
1 Treetop Village
1 Swamp

I went a bit long on lands because I know that I will need multiples — and because the format has a lot of Stifles. I can expect to have some fetchlands Stifled at times, so I suspect I need a few more lands.

I’ll consider Ghost Quarters after I play the format more. I will also consider maindecking cards like Pithing Needle or other hosers.

I am going to play this in the tournament practice room, so I need a sideboard.

The first deck I need to address is Hulk Flash. Yes, Flash is restricted. That may, or may not solve the problem. Against Hulk Flash I would like Leyline of the Void. I would also like Pyroblast to counter the Flash and pitch spells, and more discard: Cabal Therapy sounds good. There — that’s twelve sideboard slots filled already. I could even give Withered Wretch a tryout.

I also want some answers to Dredge decks. The work in paper Legacy, and most of the same cards are available online. Fortunately, Leyline works there as well, and I have the Mogg Fanatics already. If worst comes to worst, I can even do things like Seal my own creatures to get rid of Bridges. I could also run Tormod’s Crypt and/or Extirpate, although Extirpate really isn’t that good in the matchup.

The next deck I wondered about is Goblins. Goblins had been dying out, but MED contains Goblin Grenade. I doubt that it is enough, but you never know. I may have to find room in the sideboard for Engineered Plagues. On the downside, I think I only own one copy. I won’t get more, or sideboard the card, until I see actual goblins.

I expect that Fish decks, with counters and Meddling Mage, will continue to be quite strong. Against these decks, I want Pyroblasts and a lot of luck. I would also like Krosan Grip to fight the Sensei’s Divining Top / Counterbalance lock.

In theory, I can also expect a mirror match, or at least other aggro decks. Terminate would be a very nice addition, but I don’t own any. I’ll have to use Smothers instead, unless I get a lot more excited about this deck than I am so far, and decide to take it into a PE. Alternatively, I could also try Pact of Negation (although I would need to be sure about the mana). Finally, I will also try out my single copy (so far) of Contagion. It is a pitch removal spell — and would provide another use for late game Dark Rituals.

Finally, it seems strange to run a G/R deck these days without Ancient Grudge. I’m not sure whether my deck would be badly affected by opposing artifacts (I have few effects that Pithing Needle, for instance, could stop.) However, I don’t really want to find out the hard way.

4 Leyline of the Void
2 Ancient Grudge
3 Cabal Therapy
2 Smother
4 Pyroblast

So, time to take the deck out into the tournament practice room, and see what lives there.


Getting games at random in the Tournament Practice and Anything Goes rooms sometimes means you play random decks — just like a real tournament. I’m not sure that Classic is actually the format for Elvish Pioneers, but I could be wrong. Elfball, maybe, but I did not see any Mountains or Kaervek’s Torches. I sided in the Smothers for Duresses. Actually, I was playing around with Contagion here, and it killed elves quite nicely.


As expected, this deck is fast and annoying, and it is really hard to beat it game 1 without getting lucky with a Mogg Fanatic. Drawing Leyline in games 2 or 3 helps. I haven’t played enough to really know the matchup — it is far easier to get into a draft than a Classic match. I sided in the Leylines and Smothers (to kill enablers) for Duress and Hymns. Pyroblasts can come in if they run the Cephalid Breakfast version, as could Pithing Needle.


Apparently, it still works. I saw some turn 3 kills. Unfortunately, I was not the one making them. Sideboarding consists of bringing in the Leylines and Pyroblasts for the Kird Apes, Calls, and Jittes, and — probably — Bolts or Seals. Swamp, Ritual, Hymn, Duress is so much fun against Hulk that I’m loathe to remove the Rituals, but Ritual may not be good enough against them.


I did see a version of the Auriok Salvagers / Spellbomb deck. I don’t know if this is a real deck anymore, or if someone is jut playing it for fun. I did not face it again. It was a bit of a mess, since my removal could not easily kill a 2/4. I need Terminate — or, better yet, Pithing Needle. The sideboard needs to be tweaked to handle this — either that or mulligan to Leyline of the Void.


I saw classic Affinity, complete with Disciple of the Vault, Skullclamp, and Aether Vial. The deck still seems to work. Smother cannot help against Myr EnforcerTerminate would be better, but Pernicious Deed would be best of all. Anyone got a playset to give me? I can’t afford to buy them. Ancient Grudge is not quite enough, but it does tend to kill Skullclamp and Vial. I side in Ancient Grudge and Smother – or possibly Contagion. Contagion kills Disciples. It would be nice to bring in Krosan Grip as well, but MTGO has a thing about 150-card sideboards.


I have only seen this deck, never played it, but it looks good. It was at the upper end of the Classic PE last weekend — although with crashes and so forth, I don’t know how that finished. Pox runs Smallpox, original Pox, Hymn, Contagion and — honestly — Megrim. It looked like a beating, and I don’t really know how to sideboard against it.

Wrap Up

I had planned on running this through the gauntlet some more, then playing in the PE. Too many other things came up. I can’t even declare the deck good enough for play. It looks and feels solid, but the whole Ritual / Hyppie thing seems iffy. When it works, it’s great. When it bombs, it bombs. That’s the core, old-school tech of the deck, but I’m not completely willing to recommend it, yet.

Sorry folks, tyranny of the deadline.


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