There's an idea, a series of whispers, a line of thought out there that believes Wizards of The Coast has something akin to a vault, filled with any card you can imagine, piled to the sky. Some might even picture us swimming in it, Scrooge McDuck-style, as we happily bathe in Black Lotuses and wantonly use Alpha Lightning Bolts as play-test cards.
Sadly for my plans to surround myself with Beta Mons's Goblin Raiders, that simply isn't the case. This made recreating a Vintage Masters draft—typically an online-only format—something of a challenge. It's one thing to recreate a Black Lotus digitally, but it's another thing entirely to track down enough cards to make even just three pods happen, as we have for the World Championship here in Nice.
To do so, we went to outside sources and asked—pretty please—if we could borrow some of the rarest, most sought after cards on the planet.
And they said yes.
It wasn't necessarily that simple. Vintage Masters is a peculiar and difficult to assemble product in real life for a few reason. The first, obviously, is that the set includes power—Black Lotus, Mox Jet, Ancestral Recall, and so on—that are certainly difficult to find.
The second is that there are certain cards that were rarity shifted from old sets that simply don't have many copies in existence, particularly from old Starter and Portal sets—sets printed in limited quantities years ago that were aimed at newer players. So Goblin General, for example, was shifted down to a common after only seeing print as a rare and uncommon in two older, less widely distributed sets.
Finally, for ease of play and coverage, every card needed to have the same art across all copies. That meant every Brainstorm, every Hymn to Tourach, every High Tide, needed to look exactly the same. Across Magic's long history, that can be a challenge.
But with these issues tackled and a card source secured, the Magic Online team—remember, Vintage Masters is a Magic Online-only format—randomly created 100 packs of VMA and sent them, spreadsheet style, to Scott Larabee, Organized Play maestro (not his official title) for assembly.
Behold, Vintage Masters in real life!
Why 100 when twenty-four players only required 72 packs?
"We wanted to make sure that not only were the packs themselves randomized, but that the distribution of those packs was random as well," Larabee said.
That, in turn, led to a couple of very late nights assembling.
"It took two people four hours on two nights to get the whole thing assembled, one pack at a time," Larabee said. "We laid everything out on a conference room table by rarity and alphabetically. Thankfully, it went faster as we got going."
One pack at a time...
The result? A very cool format and a sweet treat for the twenty-four players assembled here today.