Throwback Standard Gauntlet 2: Combo Winter (Urza Block)

Posted in Magic Online on May 10, 2017

By Randy Buehler

The Urza block was, quite simply, broken. Deck designers all over the world were building new combo decks faster than the DCI could ban them, and people were killing each other as early as turn one. In Standard.

Before the Pro Tour began, you could make the case that the best Magic players in the world were the ones who were designing and developing the game. From a historical perspective, the Urza block marks the point where the Magic-playing public pulled so far ahead of the designers that something had to change. By the end of the Urza year, R&D had already hired multiple Pro Tour players and begun to rebuild its development process. Those efforts have been successful enough that nothing even resembling the winter of 1998 has happened since then.

No holds will be barred in this Gauntlet, and no apologies will be made. The decks here are brutal weapons and patently unfair on multiple axes. Good luck and have fun!

Note: This event can be found in the Limited Leagues area of Magic Online play lobby.

Combo Winter Throwback Standard Gauntlet League

  • Start Time: May 17 at 10 a.m. Pacific
  • End Time: May 24 at 12 a.m. Pacific
  • Location: Play Lobby -> Limited Tournaments -> Leagues
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Number of Players: 8
  • Product: One randomly-selected phantom deck from the below list. The cards in the deck will not be added to your collection.
  • Structure: Deck review, followed by 3 Swiss rounds
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Wildfire

Kai Budde was just some guy who had a string of good Grand Prix when he showed up for Worlds in Tokyo in 1999. By the end of that weekend, he had his first Pro Tour win and his first Player of the Year trophy. This is the deck that he used, and it's quite a fun deck. Covetous Dragon is the headliner, and it can come down as early as turn one. Many of the most egregious mistakes from Urza's Saga had been banned by Worlds, but this deck made great use of all the fast artifact mana not just to power out the Dragon, but also to blow up the opponent's mana with a Wildfire.

Wildfire


Replenish

Replenish decks have long been a favorite of rules gurus and judge test writers, because using Opalescence to turn enchantments into creatures can create all kinds of crazy interactions. The deck was already a monster in Block Constructed as Attunement makes it easy to fill your graveyard and set up the namesake card to bring everything back. When Mercadian Masques came out and added the Parallax enchantments to the mix, the deck got even better. (There are some truly naughty stack tricks you can pull once Parallax Wave is a creature and can therefore reset itself.) Tom van de Logt is most famous for winning Worlds in 2001, but he also made the Top 8 in 2000 with this deck.

Replenish


Academy

This might be the most powerful deck in the 22-year history of Standard, despite there not actually being a major Standard event during the window of time when it was legal. Tommi Hovi won the Extended-format Pro Tour right after Urza's Saga was released (Extended was sort of like what Modern is now) with a deck that was almost legal in Standard. (It just used dual lands to splash for Abeyance and some sideboard cards.) The goal of this deck is to use Mind Over Matter to create large amounts of mana by untapping and retapping a Tolarian Academy (or, in a pinch, a Mana Vault). You then sink that mana into a Stroke of Genius, targeting yourself, so you draw enough cards to fuel a Stroke targeting your opponent that forces them to draw more cards than they have in their library. Five different cards from this list were banned in Standard in the nine months after Urza's Saga came out (and two others were banned in other formats).

Academy


Jar

Speaking of decks that weren't legal for very long . . . Memory Jar was almost immediately added to the list of cards banned in Standard (and Extended) in March 1999 after Erik Lauer and I flew to Vienna and both made Top 8 of an Extended Grand Prix with a deck built around it on the first weekend Urza's Legacy was legal. The deck is all fast mana and card drawing, with the weird but simple kill condition of just putting Megrim into play and then watching as the Memory Jar hands unwind at the end of turn. Since the opponent discards their hand to get back their original, that triggers Megrim and kills them.

Jar


Tinker

Jon Finkel and Bob Maher played a truly epic final at Worlds in 2000 just before the Urza block finally rotated out of Standard. Ten cards had been banned in Standard over the course of the previous two years, but somehow Tinker wasn't one of them, and both Jon and Bob piloted the same version of the deck to the finals. Metalworker could fuel some truly crazy turns, and Phyrexian Processor was the most common Tinker target/kill card. Depending on the matchup, they would pay as much as 19 life to make 19/19 Minions. (To be fair, 10 was a more common choice, and 7 was probably the most common.) The deck also has a nice suite of one-of utility artifacts that could be fetched up exactly when they were good.

Tinker


Stompy

Tolarian Academy may get all the hype, but Gaea's Cradle has probably been played in more decks over the years. This particular Cradle deck is probably the high-water mark for mono-green aggro decks. It placed three different players into the Top 8 of Worlds in 1999, including future Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog. The strategy is quite straightforward: blood makes the grass grow . . . deploy bigger creatures than everyone else has and faster. Then give them trample.

Stompy


LD Red

What can you do when Wizards prints crazy powerful lands? How about blowing those lands up! Jamie Parke and Mark LePine both made the Top 8 of Worlds running the quintessential "land destruction" deck.

LD Red


Napster

Jon Finkel won US Nationals in the summer of 2000 with this Mike Flores design. At a high level, it's a mono-black control deck, but the details are both subtle and powerful. Four Vampiric Tutors allow access to an extremely powerful toolbox full of individual cards that can single-handedly devastate enemy strategies. Meanwhile, four copies of Yawgmoth's Will provide a heaping helping of card advantage, along with the ability to reuse those powerful hosers.

Napster


Bargain

When Yawgmoth's Bargain came out in Urza's Destiny, it was supposed to be a "fixed" Necropotence, but like many of the variations on power cards throughout that block, it was probably better than the original. Not having to wait until the end of the turn to get the cards allowed the card to fuel quite a variety of combo decks that would kill immediately upon getting the enchantment into play. The most memorable of these used another very powerful card—Academy Rector—to cheat the Bargain into play as soon as possible. Then it turned cards in black mana via Skirge Familiar and killed with Soul Feast (plus Yawgmoth's Will so it could cast more than four times).

Bargain


Accelerated Blue

While there were still successful draw-go decks running around during this era, the newest innovation in control decks was to use Grim Monolith to get far enough ahead on mana that you were willing to actually tap out and put a threat onto the board. It's hard to explain how good Morphling was "back in the day" given how much better creatures have gotten in the intervening years, but it's various abilities combined to make it essentially an unkillable, unblockable attacker and defender. The dream draw with this deck plays one on turn three with one blue mana left over to make it untargetable. Of course, Morphling was even better once damage started using the stack, but to be fair the stack wasn't actually introduced until Classic Sixth Edition, which was six months after Morphling was printed.

Accelerated Blue

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