Orange is the New Black

Posted in Feature on October 18, 2005

By Brian Rogers

or

Pig On a Stick, I’m In, But No Poi!

Black Lotus

Once upon a time, a Magic® deck only had to have 40 cards in it. Not just for Sealed Deck tournaments, but for Constructed play. Once upon a time, there were no banned or restricted cards. Once upon a time, you could show up at a tournament with a deck that had 15 Black Lotus and 25 Ancestral Recalls and draw your opponent’s deck on the first turn. Once upon a time, the rules for Magic varied greatly based on the interpretation of the person who was running the tournament. Once upon a time, there was no DCI®. The Duelist’s Convocation International as it was once known, an acronym that is now an anachronism, has done a lot to mold Magic into that terrific game we have today.

When I first started playing, I just used all of the cards I owned, and that was my deck. I was in high school at the time, and I worked at the local pool as a cashier. At work one day, I took some time to read the little rule book that came with the first starter pack I bought. It was the spring of 1994, and the rules in that book were all the rules that existed for Magic as far as I knew. Most of what I read in that book followed right along with how we played, but one thing did not. When I read that your deck had to be at least 40 cards, it made me start thinking. “Self” I thought, “If I only play the best 40 cards I own, then I will have a better chance of drawing my really good cards.” Not too long after reading through the rules, Legends® came out. I built my first 40-card deck that showcased Dakkon Blackblade and Ramses Overdark, two of the coolest cards I had ever seen. This deck quickly dominated our little playgroup and helped to focus everyone on deck building as opposed to shuffling huge piles of cards.

It was about this same time that we heard about a new magazine called The Duelist. I ordered the first issue and I was hooked. The magazine talked about cards I had never seen and concepts I had never imagined. There was also talk of the Duelist’s Convocation. I immediately applied for membership. Not too long afterwards, I got a card in the mail. It was just a little piece of cardboard that was laminated. It had my name and my very own membership number hand written on it. It may not be quite as cool as some of the new clear cards the DCI sends out now, but I think that of all the cards the DCI has sent me over the years, this one is still my favorite.

Winter of 1994 presented us with our first chance to play in a tournament. The tournament would not be sanctioned, but it would use the same deck construction rules as a sanctioned tournament. The Internet was still pretty new back in those days, but between my subscription to The Duelist and my friend’s dial-up access to the Internet, we were able to find out what that meant. There was only one format back then: your deck had to have 60 cards or more, no more than four of any one card, and several cards were banned from tournament play or restricted (limited to one per deck). Perhaps one day I will share the story of that tournament with you, but not today. It is enough to say for now that since that day, I have watched with great interest what changes have been made by the DCI.

Back to the Future

Today there is no longer a Duelist’s Convocation International; instead, we have the more streamlined DCI. And no rulebook you find in any new starter set will tell you to build a 40-card deck; instead, it will tell you the minimum deck size is 60. Today, the DCI sanctions many different formats, both Limited and Constructed, as well as online and team formats. Today, you have several different options on what cards you can use.

Standard is one of the most commonly used formats in Magic. Because the legal card pool is updated every year, Standard is the easiest format for newer players to enter into. However, I continually notice a trend with new players. They normally stick with Standard until the first set they started play with rotates out. That is when players start getting serious about Extended.

Over the years, Extended Constructed format has gone through a lot of changes, and now it is about to undergo a change that is both going to redefine it forever and stabilize it for the long term. The original idea behind Extended was to allow players to use their older cards while not having to compete against the very elite group of people that can afford to get cards to build a strong Vintage deck. Vintage allows you to use any card ever printed for Magic, with a very few cards being banned and several being restricted. Some of these cards are extremely hard to gain possession of. This is why, initially, Extended was to allow cards from any set that was “readily available” to be legal.

What makes a set readily available? This is a good question, and one which over time has become harder and harder to answer. That is why the DCI has instituted a new policy for Extended, a policy that has been in place for a couple of years now and that we will first see implemented on October 20. Beginning on this date, the first preplanned Extended rotation will take place. On the same day that Ravnica: City of Guilds™ becomes legal for play, cards from Sixth Edition, Tempest block (Tempest™, Stronghold™, and Exodus™), Urza block (Urza’s Saga™, Urza’s Legacy™, and Urza’s Destiny™), and Masques block (Mercadian Masques™, Nemesis™, and Prophecy™) will all rotate out of Extended. This will leave the following sets legal in Extended: Invasion™, Planeshift™, Apocalypse™, Seventh Edition™, Odyssey™, Torment™, Judgment™, Onslaught™, Legions™, Scourge™, Eighth Edition, Mirrodin®, Darksteel™, Fifth Dawn™, Champions of Kamigawa™, Betrayers of Kamigawa™, Saviors of Kamigawa™, Ninth Edition, and Ravnica: City of Guilds.

Disciple of the Vault

The removal of the older sets from the Extended format will continue to occur at three-year intervals. This rotation has the added effect of eliminating most of the cards that are currently banned from Extended play. The only cards that will remain banned from Extended will be Skullclamp and Entomb. Effective on the day of the rotation, two more cards will be added to this list: AEther Vial and Disciple of the Vault. These two cards are very strong in an affinity deck and are being banned to limit the power of affinity in the new Extended format.

Virtual Meets Reality

The Extended rotation will also mark a new first for the Magic: The Gathering Online gaming community. For the first time, you will be able to build and test your extended deck on Magic Online. On October 20, the Extended rotation will sync up in these two arenas for the first time ever. This means that you can surf the net and play Magic Online while you practice to win a trip to Hawaii!?!?

Voice in the back of my head: “Wait, did you say I can win a trip to Hawaii?!?!”

Voice in the front of my head: “Yeah.”

Voice in the back of my head: “Well, like, how?”

Voice in the front of my head: “Oh, didn’t I mention that already?”

Voice in the back of my head: “No, why don’t you tell me. I want to go to Hawaii!”

Voice in the front of my head: “Good idea.”

Catch a Wave

***Notice***

To those Magic players attending the University of Hawaii, the following information may not seem overly exciting, but to everyone else, surf’s up!

***End Notice***

The PTQ qualifier season for Pro Tour Honolulu starts October 22 and runs through January 1, 2006. If you win one of the PT Honolulu qualifiers, you might be eligible for a trip to Hawaii courtesy of the DCI. The qualifiers for PT Honolulu will be run using the Extended Constructed format. Now, if you weren’t excited about the new changes to Extended before, you have to be now (excluding readers currently residing in Hawaii).

Is Orange the New Black?

“Why is orange the new black?” A friend of mine who studied art in school would always say this as a joke. He was referring to his annoyance with trends in the art world and the world in general. I bring it up because with the new changes in Extended, I have heard some people say that Legacy is the new Extended.

In a way I agree, the Constructed format for Legacy is likely to have a lot of the feel that Extended had, but I don’t think it is fair to say it is the new Extended. Extended has a very important place in the world of Magic. To keep the playing field fair for new players, Standard is the most widely used format. Once new players are able to experience Constructed Magic play for a while, they often turn to Extended as a way to continue using all the old cards that help them to first explore the multiverse. This is exactly where Extended shines. Legacy does serve to fulfill one of the original concepts that Extended was intended for. It does allow players who have been around for a while to use all of their cards without having to acquire some of the more expensive cards on the secondary market. It also helps players avoid some of the fast game swings that are the hallmark of the Vintage environment. While both of these formats do serve some similar purposes, it is important to see that each of them does so in very different ways.

I look at this most recent evolution of the Magic Constructed environment as a great opportunity. This rotation helps to more greatly diversify the types of Constructed environments that the DCI supports and provides greater access for newer players to the semi-commonly used Extended format. By setting a solid standard for the rotation of sets in and out of the Extended environment, the DCI has also established a better system of player support, as players will have ample time to prepare for changes. As you explore the new Extended format during the Pro Tour Honolulu season, look for some of the old favorite block decks from the past to reemerge and for decks that have never before been imagined to show up and lead the innovators who created them to a tropical island in the Pacific.

(Disclaimer: Hawaii does not actually produce blue or green mana, nor does it count as either a forest or an island during game play.)

Brian started playing Magic in spring 1994 (when you could still buy Antiquities boosters!) After becoming a DCI Judge in 1999, he has judged numerous Grand Prix, PTQs, local events, and even a couple of Pro Tours. He joined the Wizards of the Coast Delegate program in June 2004 and in what free time he has left after judging, delegating, and playing will be a contributing writer for the MPR newsletter.

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