Throwback Standard Gauntlet 3: Early 2000s

Posted in Magic Online on May 24, 2017

By Randy Buehler

After the roller coaster of the late '90s, which saw Combo Winter followed up by a relatively underwhelming Mercadian Masques block, Standard started to calm down. R&D began hiring a steady stream of Pro Tour players to bolster its development process and spells started to get worse while creatures started to get better. This Gauntlet covers the years when Invasion, Odyssey, and then Onslaught blocks were released.

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

Early 2000s Throwback Standard Gauntlet League

  • Start Time: May 31 at 10 a.m. Pacific
  • End Time: Entries end June 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific, matches end at 10 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

Psychatog

"Dr. Teeth" is one of the most famous creatures of its era, and the game plan of casting Upheaval while floating enough mana to follow-up with a Psychatog remained incredibly powerful throughout the time those cards were in Standard. The rest of the deck is a solid control shell—removal, card drawing, and counterspells, but it's really the 'Tog that ties it all together. Not only does it block, not only does it fuel the Madness Counterspell Circular Logic and gain extra value from Flashback cards, but it also attacks for one gigantic hit thanks to all the cards that wind up in the graveyard naturally just from playing Magic. Especially when you cast Fact or Fiction. Players who lived through this era probably recognize the acronym EOTFOFYL. For the rest of you, prepare for "End of turn: Fact or Fiction. You lose." The version of the deck we're using here is, of course, the one Carlos Romão used to win the 2002 World Championship.

Psychatog

Fires

The Fires deck burst onto the scene at Pro Tour Chicago in 2000, the first major event after Invasion was launched, when five different red-green beatdown decks made the Top 8. One even splashed white for Rith, the Awakener, which Brian Kibler famously enchanted with Armadillo Cloak and used to kill Jon Finkel, thus earning Kibler the "Dragonmaster" nickname he enjoys to this day. When Planeshift came out, the deck got even better by adding Flametongue Kavu, and when Apocalypse launched most people added Fire // Ice to their lists as well. Through the year, the combo at the heart of the deck was the haste from Fires of Yavimaya plus Blastoderm and especially Saproling Burst. Those two cards were balanced via fading, so getting in an extra attack step greatly increased their power-level, and each card became capable of winning the game on its own.

Fires

Rebels

Fires may have been the break-out deck at that Pro Tour Chicago, but it was a certain German Juggernaut who actually won the event using the main mechanic from the previous block: Rebels. At that point in time, Ramosian Sergeant was perhaps the most powerful one-mana creature ever printed due to its ability to recruit an entire army into play. The secret weapon in this deck, though, has to be Parallax Wave. Anyone who has drafted it in Cube can attest to the power of this enchantment. Between the Wave and the ability to sideboard in multiple Wrath of God variants and/or Armageddon, Kai was able to succeed despite all the new big monsters that had come out to play.

Rebels

Squirrel Opposition

Wizards didn't used to run very many Grand Prix using the Standard format. When they held one in Milwaukee in May of 2002, it was actually the first Standard GP in three and a half years. It was also the most highly attended GP in North American history at the time (at 652 people) and, more interestingly, it had four different future Hall of Famers make the Top 8.

Mike Turian may be known primarily for his skill at Limited, but he made Top 4 in Milwaukee with a deck that then became a fixture in Standard, winning US Nationals (in the hands of teammate Eugene Harvey) and also make Top 8 at Worlds (in the hands of another member of Turian's playtesting team, Ken Krouner): Squirrel Opposition. Other versions of the same basic archetype took 2nd in Milwaukee in the hands of Patrick Chapin and 5th at Worlds via Sim Han How.

The key to the deck is just what it sounds like from the title: make a horde of squirrels (with Squirrel's Nest) and use them to fuel Opposition, making your opponent's life miserable. Often the right play is to tap their lands in their upkeep so they can't cast any more spells. Note that you can make your lock even stronger by sideboarding in the Static Orbs, which will turn off if you tap them on your opponents end step so you get all your permanents untapped every turn and they only get two (which you then probably tap with Opposition, of course).

Squirrel Opposition

Battle of Wits

Yes, seriously. William Jensen made Top 8 of that same GP Milwaukee with a 244-card deck and swears to this day that it was a good deck choice and not a gimmick. He even convinced his teammate Brock Parker to run it in a Masters Series event. It's even better on Magic Online, of course, where you don't have to worry about actually shuffling it.

Battle of Wits

Mono-Black Control

Good old Swamps; nothing beats Swamps. While it was most successful in Odyssey-block Constructed (thanks primarily to the black-focused Torment set), mono-black control did also cross over into Standard. Justin Gary used this version to make the US National team in 2003, and a similar version made the Top 8 of the European Championship that same summer. This deck has all the "Swamp matters" cards you would expect, along with the ability to sideboard in Nantuko Shades when it's time to beat down.

Mono-Black Control

Wake

Daniel Zink won Worlds in 2003 with this essentially creatureless control deck while three other versions of the deck also made the Top 8. The key to the deck is the eponymous enchantment Mirari's Wake. Once it's in play, the one-sided "mana flare" effect gives the Wake player tons of extra mana that can be used to deal with whatever threats the opponent is presenting plus draw extra cards to steadily pull further and further ahead. (Note that the rules for Cunning Wish have changed such that you can no longer wish for cads that are in exile.)

Wake

Goblin Bidding

Goblin decks received a huge boost thanks to the Onslaught block. Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Warchief have become staples in many different formats, and the block includes plenty of other good utility goblins as well. This version of the goblin deck splashes black for Patriarch's Bidding, which gives the deck the ability to recover from enemy sweepers—usually the bane of an aggressive weenie swarm—or even to combo off with things like Goblin Sharpshooter and/or Siege-Gang Commander.

Goblin Bidding

Madness

When it was time to pick a decklist for Madness, I did the same thing everyone did back in the day: I asked Jeff Cunningham. While "ffeJ" had his biggest successes with the deck in Extended, he was quite influential on Standard as well, and his articles pretty much determined what people would be playing the next weekend. The version I'm using here comes from InvasionOdyssey Standard because Yavimaya Coast was a better addition to the deck than anything in the Onslaught block. The list Jeff recommended is actually from another great deckbuilder: Ben Ronaldson. His "Hampton Court Palace" team crushed English Nationals in 2002 with a version they called Deep Dog, and all the versions that followed in the next year leaned heavily on their shell.

Madness

Slide

Gabe Walls Top 8'ed both US Nationals and also Worlds in 2003 with decks based around Astral Slide, Lightning Rift, and cycling cards. At Nationals he splashed green, primarily for Krosan Tusker, but once Scourge came out, he was able to stream-line things and play a two-color version at Worlds, complete with a Burning Wish sideboard.

Slide

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