Three Takes on Type 1

Posted in Learning Curve on December 17, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

I don't know anything about Type 1.

I mean I understand the basics. You can play with every set and expansion since Alpha (barring Portal and Unglued). There is an extensive banned and restricted list. And the games don't last very long.

There was a brief period of time when I thought I was going to play Type 1. I had almost all of the cards I thought you needed to play. I had Moxes and dual lands, all shiny and minty from the Alpha edition. First I found out that I didn't have nearly the array of cards I would need. Second, I couldn't bring myself to subject my beautiful cards to it. I couldn't shuffle my beautiful alphas. I am a hard shuffler—my cards don't suffer the experience well. In the end I sold them off on eBay when I realized that I would never play with them. What's the point otherwise?

So basically you have Type 1 theme week and an author who knows very little about Type 1. Don't worry there will be no theme week end around this week. Fortunately, I get to go to Neutral Ground more times a week that I care to admit. Neutral Ground is a gaming store with a huge tournament area that I founded almost eight years ago. I no longer own it but it is still my home away from home in regards to Magic. It serves as a place to draft, playtest and a spot to convene before departing for non-gaming related activities.

Neutral Ground has always held sanctioned Type 1 tournaments and they have a deep pool of players that all compete regularly in them. The decks range from highly focused competitive decks to slightly tweaked (if at all) Standard or Extended decks. You can usually find all the major archetypes represented from control decks to combo decks to the Sligh decks. Sligh—a deck that features inexpensive red creatures and burn—is always a popular choice because you can build the deck inexpensively without any power cards and it just flat our wins sometimes.

Another popular deck has been Blue-Green Madness which has seen play in Block Constructed, Standard, Extended and now Vintage. It utilizes the discard effects of Lion's Eye Diamond and Bazaar of Baghdad to enable madness. It is another relatively inexpensive deck to build that can beat any deck that stumbles for a turn a two. Three players at Neutral Ground have learned to navigate these tricky and unpredictable waters with their own approach to building a Vintage deck.

One of the most famous players who is a regular competitor is Pro Tour, Grand Prix, and Masters Series winner Mike Pustilnik. Mike has always loved Type 1 and probably plays that format of Magic more avidly than any other.

Scott McCord was also a Pro Tour mainstay up until recently. Scott found himself not enjoying the intense competition of the Pro Tour and has passed up his past few invitations despite demonstrating that he had what it took to compete in that rarefied air. Scott can often be found drafting at Neutral Ground but if he has sixty cards in front of him you can reasonably assume he is playing Type 1. It has become his favorite format.

Steve Sadin is a young up and comer. Steve has been on a tear lately. He has made the Top 8 of almost every PTQ he has played in and is hoping to take his game up to the next level at the upcoming Pro Tours. In the meanwhile, he has been running roughshod over the local Type 1 tournament scene. He has been playing a Psychatog deck that has only taken one draw and zero losses in its past thirty matches. He is 14-0-1 in sanctioned Type 1 and has gone 7-0 at two separate unsanctioned events that allowed the use of a limited number of proxies.

(Tournaments that allow the use of proxies can be an excellent way to improve your collection if your are trying to build a Type 1 deck. The prizes are often Type cards like Moxes [especially here on the East Coast] and since they allow the use of proxies you can build more competitive decks than you might be able to otherwise. The downside is that since they are not sanctioned you are not afforded all of the same protections that you get from the DCI at a sanctioned event. That said, they are normally pretty high profile events and if you ask around before you play in the tournament you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect from the organizer.)

Here is the deck Steve has been tearing it up with. Interestingly the only card he needed to proxy was a Rack and Ruin. I had borrowed them and they were all in my Extended deck at the time.

Steve a Tog

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I asked Steve what the difference was between his deck and the one Carl Winter used to win the Vintage Championships earlier this year. Carl's deck was called Hulk and featured the popular Berserk, “My deck is basically a Psychatog deck with a much better mana base. I don't roll over and die to Wasteland—something that is increasingly common in Type 1 these days. I don't play with Tropical Island or Berserk. I don't think it is necessary. I play in an environment full of Wastelands. Winning a turn earlier is not as relevant as losing to a double Wasteland draw.”

Like all Type 1 decks, Steve makes minor modifications based on the local tournament environment, “I didn't always have red in the deck. I used to feature five Wastelands (four and a Strip Mine) and a handful of Stifles because Academy Rector was dominating the environment.” One of the popular decks sacrifices Academy Rector to flash back Cabal Therapy. From there the player can get Necropotence or Illusions of Grandeur and then Donate the latter to their opponent. More on that later in the broadcast.

The deck Steve used to play was Keeper. Keeper is a four-color control deck that constantly shifts to keep up with the environment. Keeper has fallen out of favor with many Type 1 stalwarts although the deck will always have its supporters. “There are a couple of theories about Keeper. The first is that it is an outdated deck that attempts to have one for one answers to common threats. For example: Aura Fracture for Back to Basics, Sword to Plowshares for Phyrexian Negator and Diabolic Edict for Morphling.”

“The second theory is that the cards in your deck are strictly better than the cards in your opponent's deck. For example: Yawgmoth's Will and Balance.” Steve feels he has a much better game against Keeper than they do against him and is happy to face it in tournament, “You have much better card drawing than they do. They only have eight counterspells and they keel over and die if you have Duress. Plus I am better than the Keeper players.”

Steve comes off sounding pretty arrogant at times when talking about Type 1 and I called him on that. He explained, “Type 1 is and arrogant format—I might even go so far as to say that it is an arrogance dependent format. As long as that arrogance comes from experience.”

One of the most experienced and least arrogant players you could ever hope to meet is Michael Pustilnik. Mikey P has been playing Magic since its initial release and is one of the only players who can claim victory on the Pro Tour, at a Grand Prix, and at the now defunct Masters Series. Mike has played more or less the same deck for years. His deck is what Steve Sadin would refer to as Keeper although Mike prefers Four-Color Control, “Keeper is a name that Mike Long gave the deck and that has caught on much to my distress.”

Mike describes his deck as elegant and plays it because…well, because he gets to play with it. “I like the deck because it is an interactive deck and it allows you to improve every time you play it. It challenges your mind.”

Mikey P's 4-Color Control

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Teferi's Response
Mike wanted to point out a few things about his current list. The second Gorilla Shaman will probably become a Teferi's Response once the January restrictions kick in and there are three fewer Chrome Moxes in everybody's decks. He also acknowledged that his inclusion of two Mishra's Factories and a Zuran Orb might be considered unusual. He likes the versatility of the Mishra's on offense or defense and does not feel they impede the color requirements of the deck at all. As to the latter card, “It is controversial but I think it is indicated. You cannot beat mono-red decks game one otherwise.”

Mike has been playing the same deck with minor variations for several years. It is one of the strong points of the format to it's supporters. They claim that while it is expensive to build a deck initially, once you have made the investment you do not need to sink serious dollars into your constructed Magic habit ever again. That may be true but the price of those initial cards keeps getting higher and higher. Mike claimed that it is possible to play without having the biggest cards in the set.

“I would recommend playing an aggro-black deck to anyone trying to get started in Type 1 who doesn't have the power cards. The deck could be improved with Mox Jet or Black Lotus, of course. But you can be competitive without them.”


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Finally, I turned to Scott McCord who has turned his attention from playing high level competitive Magic to drafting among friends and playing Type 1. “I like Type 1 because it is a format that is relatively unexplored. It harkens back to the days when everyone had their own personal deck. You would fine tune your deck over time. Each card choice was carefully examined and you were constantly tinkering with your deck. There weren't any huge Pro Tours which drove hundreds of people searching for the single best deck.”

“I don't think it is broken—no matter what people say. Sure it is great to Ancestral yourself on turn one but there is actually a lot of play skill in the format and the decisions you make determine the outcome of the game.” That said, Scott has been playing an Illusions/Donate deck that both Steve and Mikey P acknowledged as being the best deck in the format. It is chock full of restricted cards, fast mana, and degenerate combos backed up by the power of Duress and Cabal Therapy.

Rector? I nearly Killed Her!

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The deck is easily capable of winning on turn two although it is vulnerable to targeted hand destruction and mana disruption. A couple of well-aimed Wastelands can ruin its whole game. I found it interesting that Scott, Steve and Mike all played four copies of the innocuous looking Brainstorm. Scott claimed it was the most powerful card in Type 1 that is not restricted—especially since the introduction of the fetch lands. he related a story about Mikey P playing Type 1 against Brian Weissman in San Diego at this past US Nationals.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brian Weissman, he was one of the first players to have a deck that he put forth become a “net deck”. He built a blue-white-red control deck that became known simply as The Deck that became the talk of the usenet groups. It is probably the progenitor of the modern four color-control decks, which is the deck Brian plays in Type 1 today. He is considered by many to be the most skilled Type 1 player in the world. He almost never makes changes to his deck and at the time he was playing with Mikey P had not changed his deck in many years—not a single card.

Brian pretty much dominated the match-up but what few games Mike managed to win were thanks to the power of Brainstorm and fetch lands. When Brian concluded the matches he acknowledged that he would be adding them to his deck. To a Type 1 junkie like Scott that is the highest praise a card can receive.

To close my talks with each player I asked them to identify the top 20 cards in the Type 1 format.


Steve Sadin's Top 20 Vintage Cards


Mana Drain
1 Mana Drain
2 Ancestral Recall
3 Yawgmoth's Will (Breaking stalemates since 1998)
4 Strip Mine
5 Balance (The only reason to play white in your control decks)
6 Force Will
7 Duress
8 Necropotence
9 Mind twist
10 Intuition/AK/Deep Analysis
11 Bazaar of Baghdad
12 Academy Rector
13 Demonic Consultation
14 Fact or Fiction
15 Library of Alexandria
16 Time Walk
17 Demonic Tutor
18 Brainstorm/Fetch lands
19 Moxes (they are interchangeable)
20 Black Lotus/Sol Ring
21 Mishra's Workshop


Mike Pustilnik's Top 20 Vintage Cards


Ancestral Recall
1 Ancestral Recall
2 Black Lotus
3 Yawgmoth's Will
4 Necropotence
5 Balance
6 Mind Twist
7 Time Walk
8 Tolarian Academy
9 Academy Rector
10 Library of Alexandria
11 Timetwister
12 Sol Ring
13 Mox Sapphire
14 Mox Jet
15 Mox Ruby
16 Mox Pearl
17 Mox Emerald
18 Wheel of Fortune
19 Memory Jar
20 Tinker


Scott McCord's Top 20 Vintage Cards

“Black Lotus is the best card in the format no matter what people say. When you draw it on the fist turn it just leads to all sorts of degeneracy.”


Black Lotus
1 Black Lotus
2 Ancestral Recall
3 Tolarian Academy
4 Yawgmoth's Will
5 Yawgmoth's Bargain
6 Mind Twist
7 Balance
8 Necropotence
9 Time Walk
10 Regrowth
11 Demonic Tutor
12 Vampiric Tutor
13 Mystical Tutor
14-18 Moxes
19 Sol Ring
20 Mana Vault

That is it for Type 1 week for me. Huge thanks to Steve, Mike, and Scott for taking the time to discuss Type 1 with me and to share their decks with you. Hopefully we can do a Draft Theme Week in the near future so I will have some of my own insights to contribute.

I think we are moving into a little vacation time with reprints of out favorite columns. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers the happiest of holiday seasons and a bountiful New Year. I have had so much fun doing this column this year. Thank you to everyone that writes in with praise comment or criticism. I love hearing from you all and even though I am unable to respond to all of you I do read each piece of mail you send.

See you next year,
Brian David-Marshall

Brian may be reached at

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