Beta. Old school.

There is a format of play in Magic: The Gathering that some call 93/94 while others call it "Old School". Whatever you call it this is Magic stripped down to a very limited card pool returning to the days when blue had direct damage and people played for ante. For some its draw is an exercise in nostalgia, for others its the challenge of a limited card pool. For me it was a little bit of both.

A couple of months ago when I heard about the Old School Magic format I was compelled to finish a deck I have been building with cards I still owned from the first two years of Magic... 1993-94. I have been playing since Limited Beta, so I had some cards from each of the expansions available to me.  After a week or so of deck building I quickly came to the conclusion that Old School is very expensive and very broken. I knew I couldn't compete in the format but I had a lot of fun looking back at the beginning of the game, so I decided that I would instead build a "nostalgia deck" - not so much to play competitively but as monument to my time of discovering the game.  I went all the way back and built the deck from only Limited Edition Beta cards. Yes I am that crazy.  FYI - I eliminated Alpha cards from consideration because the corners of those cards were cut with a different radius and they don't match modern cards. Even though I put all the cards in sleeves I still think they just "look weird" together.

After I sorted my Beta cards I found that I owned way more green and white cards than the rest.  Not surprising to anyone that has played with me, since those have been my colors of choice since I started playing the game.  It seemed fitting to stick with that color pair and I was off to the races.  Over the next month I traded for some cards, bought a few key cards and stayed away from money cards that would take the deck from being a fun exercise to an investment.  In the end I created a green/white banding deck, because if you are going to build a janky old school deck you might as well go all-in and built it around banding.  For what its worth, it did have the side effect that after 20 years I finally understand how banding works.  Mission Accomplished.  I love what I ended up with though - it oozes the flavor of its old school roots and I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I play it casually (even though it will almost certainly lose).

I bought an awesome wooden deck box for it on Etsy that looks more like a keepsake box than a functional piece of Magic gear.  It doesn't sit with my other decks in a drawer when not being played - nope... it instead sits proudly on my mantle in the living room.  The box is pretty and it makes me smile knowing there is so much fun hidden inside it.

Pandora's Box.

Pandora's Box.

A quick aside here on Magic finances.  I think Limited Alpha and Limited Beta magic cards are crazy undervalued today.  Long ago Wizards of the Coast released numbers on how many cards they printed for each set. Consider this - there were 2.6 million Alpha cards printed and 7.8 million for beta.  Taking into account the different rarity levels, that means there are only 1,100 possible complete sets of Alpha and 3,200 sets of Beta.  The constraining factor here is the rare cards since there are only 1,100 and 3,200 of each rare  printed for each of the respective sets.  So to me even if a betacard was crappy it is still exceedingly rare - and given that 20 years have passed since their printing it is pretty hard for a collector to readily put their hand on any given beta card.  So with that in mind, my recommendation is that any time you can trade for or buy one of the cards from these sets on the cheap, do it.  I can only imagine that all of them at every rarity level will continue to appreciate - especially since the game is growing faster than ever before.

I have named my creation "Jurassic Deck". Fitting as it was "20 years in the making" and since I "spared no expense" in making it.  OK so I spared plenty expense making it, but when you choose a $5.00 version of a card that normally costs a dime you are choosing to spend a little more than you have to. I wanted to share this, not because it is the best deck ever constructed, but because I have found this to be another great way to celebrate my love for the game. I don't think you will regret it if you give it a try too.

The deck 2.5 years in the making!

The deck 2.5 years in the making!