A Randy Deck

Last weekend Jason Jaco and the guys at Eternal Central hosted a major Old School tournament in Philadelphia. 54 players came to battle, including a couple of guys from Norway who visted Philly to sling cards at the Vintage and Legacy championships at Eternal Weekend.

The EC players have a few local rules that sets them apart from the current meta in Sweden and most of Europe. Cards like Strip Mine, Black Vise and Fork are free to run as 4-ofs, Fallen Empires is a legal set with the Hymn being unrestricted, Mana Burn is enforced, Power cards are more abundant with the CE/IE proxies legal, and Winter Orb has errata stating that it gets "shut down" when tapped. So which decks would end up on top?

One could argue for monoblack. It's a tier1 deck that consistently shows up at the top tables at our larger tournaments, even though it's usually only played by a small part of the field. When adding 4 Hymns, 4 Strip Mines and additional pump knights, it could be a real juggernaut.

One could argue for monored, or sligh. At the 12/13 Pimpvitational tournament, where we had Fallen Empires legal (but with Hymn restricted), my plan was to play Goblins. There's just so little life gain in the format, and 4 Bolts, 4 Chain Lightnings and additional red burn goes a long way. Adding 4 Goblin Grenades and a bunch of solid Goblins could push it into tier1 territory.

Maybe prison? With the Winter Orb errata and 4-off Vises, prison looks even stronger. Nether Void won the Mindstage tournament in Sweden earlier this year, and here it has more toys. Or the Fork Recursion deck? A Power Artifact deck?
A Black Lotus deck?
Not if one the most famous card drawers from 90s Magic gets to have a say. After the reign of Brian Weissman as the "world's foremost control player", in the later third of the 90s many agree that those reigns was passed to Randy Beuhler. Randy invented decks like CMU Blue and Draw Go (a deck with 21 counters, 4 Disks, some card draw and a Rainbow Efreet). He had pretty short career, after winning rookie of the year the 97/98 season, winning PT Chicago and top8ing a little over half a doozen GPs, he was recruited by WotC in 2000 and not allowed to play sanctioned events anymore. At Wizards he was, among other things, tasked to test out cards to help and avoid a new Combo Winter. He became lead developer of Magic in the summer of 2001, and got inducted in the Magic Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility. These days he's pretty known for his coverage at the Pro Tour as well as his relentless promotion of the Vintage format and historical decks, including creating the Vintage Super League (VSL) and the Gauntlet of Greatness.
The "fair" Mind Twist. Random fact: Randy Beuhler has worked on a free-to-play online game called Mind Twist with Skaff Elias and Richard Garfield. I guess it would give even worse associations if they had called it "First turn LoA" though.
Now the internet is a sweet place. In 1994, I would have had to try and digest Randy's winning decklist from Philly myself for a while, had I even gotten my hands on it, and then eventually maybe print something about it in a fanzine. In a few weeks a handful of people in my local area would know my thoughts on the deck. Now, 21 years later, I have the opportunity to find Randy himself on the web to get some info, and I can post it for a global community for free. Good work Tim Breners-Lee! And thanks a lot for the quick replies to my rambling questions Randy!

It was no surprise that Randy would be a force to reckon with in the EC tournament. Nor was it a surprise that he would play control. The deck of choice was, well, The Deck. Was e.g. monoblue Draw Go a possiblity for kicks? Randy worked on a few different ideas before settling on the boogeyman of the mid 90s. "I always suspected I would play a version of The Deck, though I did also sketch out a Stasis deck, a Workshop deck, and a combo deck", Randy explains. "There aren't anywhere near enough counterspells in the format to play mono-blue, plus Nevy's Disks would mean you can't play with Moxen and that's a lot to give up."
Randy Beuhler's The Deck (EC restrictions).
There are some interesting choices with this build of The Deck. While most of the more recent builds of The Deck over here feautures 3-4 Books and 0-1 Scepters, Randy opted for the 2-2 split. He also went all in with 4 copies of The Abyss between his maindeck and sideboard. "Tomes and Scepters both seem great to me and I would want 1 of each before I ever wanted a 2nd of either so I felt quite good about 2 & 2. Obviously I get to upgrade one now into my prize, but I don't think I will change away from 2 & 2. (Mostly I just need to track down some black-bordered Scepters.)"
The spoils of victory.
"I probably had one anti-creature spell too many. I think Abyss #3 cold start in the sideboard instead of the main deck (and I don't know that I need access to a 4th). I would probably replace it with a 30th mana source (probably a Volcanic island as I struggled to cast both Counterspell and Red Elemental Blast during the vent, especially both on the same turn). Oh, I also need to think about Fellwar Stones. If it wasn't for Energy Flux I would definitely want them ... They're probably good even with that card in existence."
Randy Beuhler masterfully flipping the Orb vs. Stephen Menedian in the semis.
The Factory wincon looked a little scary with the 4-off Strip Mines legal. Randy talked about why he went for the Factory/Abyss combination rather than e.g. Serra/Moat. "It's true that Strip makes that a little scary, but don't forget I can get them back with Regrowth and Recall.", Randy explains. "In practice I draw so many more cards than my opponent, and reduce them to zero cards in hand so often that actually winning the game isn't hard once I'm in control of it."

"I like Abyss more than Moat because I think Mishra's Factories are awesome. They give you 4 lands (for fueling Tomes and Scepters) that also do other things when you have plenty of mana. Also, when you Scepter lock someone they can still point a top-decked Plow at your Serra Angel whereas you get to make them discard it before they can kill you Factory. Plus, i expected to face a lot of Serendib Efreets (and was right). Abyss is obviously way better against them."

"I definitely plan to play again! Hopefully there will be something local to me before next year, but if not I'll at least turn up at Eternal Weekend and attempt to defend my title."

If you want some more in-depth tech, here's a sweet video where Randy talks about his deck with Bob Maher:
You know what? It's damn fun to see how legendary players from the 90s like Olle Råde, Sean O'Brien and Randy Beuhler comes to show their skills with old cards. I'd like to see how the expert The Deck players in Sweden, like Jocke Almelund, Elof and Kalle Nord, would stack up against Randy's experience and tech. Hopefully a few of us will get the chance to battle in Philadelphia some time in the coming years :)
But before that, Europe. Maybe not this one, but at least for Nebraska War in December.
In other corners of the world, the Simone Esposito of Italy just posted a sweet article about the format and the gowth of the Italian (and international) scene during the last year at http://www.metagame.it/magic/42-italiano/2407-old-school-mtg-tempo-di-fare-chiarezza.html. It's in Italian, but easily worth a google translate if you dont speak the language.


  1. Really nice deck! But all the foreign black bordered cards hurt my eyes :/ Especially the asian stuff :P But that's just my own opinion:)


  2. Rather have FBB and CE/IE than revised any day of the week.


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