2017 Retrospective

There's a scene of some importance I can't visualize. But it's there, like a splinter in my mind. There's joy there, but also a sense of scurry. Like a man rushing to write his vows before his wedding starts. Somewhere in that mist is my allegory.

Where do we start this time?
At a point, there were only the two of us left. And stories. Something about a badly lit shower and songs of despair. A strip club in Prague, a trail lost on a moped in Thailand, breaking glasses and plates over peoples' heads. The days when our blood could paint the bar crimson. Now only the two of us remained in Alderland, matching goblins against elementals in a futile effort to regain sobriety and hold the commitments of the outside world at bay.
No, that's not it.
2017. It was a year of plenty. Annually around this time, the Language Council of Norway name the word of the year. In 2017 the most significant word was deemed "falske nyheter"; fake news. Somewhere along the line it seems that those who prefer to listen to their gut over experts got a platform and a loud voice. Shocking stories that demand reactions seem abundant. It can be daunting to sort through the static, even in such a small subculture as Magic.
With a sense of abandon I left. More pertaining to the way my own attitude had changed over the years than to this particular pub itself. They had good -even amazing- beer on the guest taps. But I found myself in a role where I was drinking a 10.4% witbier instead of Stone Ruination, just because I could. I knew that the witbier would be bad, and I know that Ruination is wonderful. Yet I forced down the wit, silently assuring myself that I have now tried every beer in this pub. A pub in the outskirts of Edinburgh I probably wont see again.
No. Today's story is none of these. Reflecting over 2017 is more like this:
I got a Christmas card from Spain. Perhaps this is the best allegory for my year in Old School Mtg. It shows growing communities, building bridges between them, and how our culture embrace doing nice things just because they are nice.

2017 was a great year for slingers of old spells. We've had a couple of 100+ player tournaments in 2017, along with a handful international gatherings in the 80-player range, casually shattering previous attendance highs. But the really cool growth is in the local communities. The Netherlands community has grown from a small handful enthusiasts to hosting 40-player gatherings in just a year. There is an actual community with tournaments in Switzerland now. The UK scene has become a force to be reckoned with and activity in Norway is well beyond what is was a year ago. There are French national championships as well as major Danish tournaments. In Yekaterinburg, Russia, we hear reports from 93/94 FNMs, and players from the Philippines show of their tech on instagram. Many players I talk to tells of a doubling or more in active players in 2017.
2017 Team Championship Winners.
And there is a true sense of camaraderie. That is something that matters far more than the numbers. Somehow we have managed to keep this as one of the defining characteristics of the 93/94 culture. We might disagree on weather Strip Mine should be restricted or not, or if Fallen Empires is "real old school" or not, but we all seem to take pride in being respectful and jovial. In many communities around the world, players host 93/94 tournaments on behalf of charities rather than giving prizes to the participants. Noobs and casuals are embraced in our ranks, and I have yet to see any active old school community that suffers kindly to haters or edgelords.
Enjoying some old fossil I found, hanging out far away from conventional civilization, and showing some love with a rectangular object. Acting like a typical Old School player ;)
Perhaps we are old. Perhaps it helps that we have faces even when playing online. Perhaps card availability forces us to take a casual approach, as obtaining everything we might want is nigh impossible. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but among the hundreds of old school players I've met in the last few years, I've truly enjoyed the company of hundreds of them. I would hang out with you without a card in the room if needed. These last weeks, when we can read articles arguing pro the merits of bullies and toxicity in Magic at even at non-magic sites such as Breitbart, keeping up the "don't be a douchebag" mentality is probably something worthy of reflection. I'm pretty much taking it for granted these days, but let's not forget that this is important. Let old school and the MtgUnderground be a quay where hating wont find anchor, where we keep valuing passion over dejection.
A Beta White Knight. This should be used as sweet tech rather than an uninspired insult.
Of the blogs I mentioned last year many scaled down in 2017. Understanding Ancestral Recall only had one post last year. MtgUnderground had five, including two guest posts. Argivian Restoration had two. Geena and Nomad Gamer seem to have left the web altogether, as have the glorious LandLotusJuzam site.
The picture showing last year's sources of information. A few going strong though; Wizard's Tower shared an impressive 24 posts last year, Eternal Central have produced a myriad of deck lists and tech, and Menendian's twelve-part series about Oldschool formats was concluded in 2017 on VintageMagic.
And right here we went from an average of 55 annual posts between 2011 and 2016 to a far more humble 29 in 2017. Including no less than twelve guest posts in 2017, a larger number than any previous year. This was according to the plan we set up a year ago, but still it is undeniable that there is fewer posts here now than during the half decade before 2017. The amount of page views have followed in the footsteps of the posts, and also halved from around 2,000 a day a year ago to stabilizing just north of 1,000 a day in the last few months.

But rather than presuming that this could be a sign of decline in 93/94 content, this is simply a passing, or distribution, of the proverbial torch. Content creation, in particular in the form of blogs, increased vastly in 2017. Here are no less than eight new old school blogs that produced their first post in 2017 and have kept delivering:

Counterclockwise from the top: French Boars, Wak-Wak blog, Brothers of Fire, Old School Ron, Music City Old School Mtg, End of Turn Draw a Card, 52-Week Beta and The Magician's Blog. Welcome to the blogosphere!
There has also been something going on at oldschoolmagic.nl, and n00bcon and the Fishliver Oil cup have opted to create their own webpages for their tournaments at n00bcon.com and fishliveroilcup.eu respectively. For those of you who have found something strange on the n00bcon page, I can confirm that the page contains a fairly complex riddle, and that so far only three persons have managed to solve it completely; Lorenzo Novaro, Martin Hardeslius and Johan Råberg. Well played you!

And the fire won't burn out at this place, even though the posts are a little more irregular. I have like infinite shit to say and the communities are thriving. There are piles of rarities, trivia and format variants from the mid-90s we haven't even touched on yet.
Like the Alpha-only format that only allows penny sleeves ;) I don't know how popular August-93 will become as a 93/94 house rule format - it is after all ridiculous in every way of measuring - but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw tournaments in things like 93/94 pauper in the coming year.
 As always, let's use retrospective nettiquette and check out a few of the more interesting posts from here last year. Let's keep it at three posts from this blag that I've written myself:
  • Magic: the Puzzling
    A short history of sleeves, and a deeper look at one of the stranger rarities from the mid 90s; Black Lotus and Chaos Orb puzzles from Ultra Pro.
  • Some Pre B&R Meta Ranting
    The first factual top tier meta analysis on this blog, trying to answer some questions about dominant strategies and cards before the annual B&R update.
  • This Month in Oldschool: August 2017
    My first try at writing a monthly recap post about the things going on in 93/94. September, October and November followed suit, though I did not do one for December as this retrospective post is so similar in format.
...and five of the guest posts from this blag:
As a bonus, here are three other great posts from other places around the blogosphere:
  • “In Praise Of” Part 3: Land Tax
    I could have picked a lot of posts from the Brothers of Fire Blog here. I really enjoy the "In Praise Of" posts, where one of the players in the community give praise to a particular card they cherish (like Fork, Spell Blast and, here, Land Tax). This particular one also shares a very nice "state of the format" for the end of 2017 in the UK community.
  • Icy Venom in the Steel City
    Dave Firth Bard writs an excellent chronicle about his exploits during the EC Eternal Weekend. Equipped with passion and Psychic Venoms he battles his way through the largest 93/94 tournament the world has seen yet.
  • Everyone remembers their first taste of power
    Old School Ron is a very good writer, with a somewhat different approach to storytelling than the majority of the other active 93/94 blogs. His post are often on shorter side and leaves you with questions or ponderings rather than simple answers. I really enjoy his blog. In this post he muses about his first piece of power. 

2017 certainly was a sweet year for our community. I'm excited to see what 2018 will bring. Hope to see a bunch of you along the road :)


  1. Hello from the Philippines! We have monthly 9394 tournaments in our local shop and most of the players are active legacy players, so access to most of the colors hasn't been a problem. We get most of our black-bordered stuff online and some players are buying their very first pieces of power to enjoy the format and to be able to hold a piece of history in their hands. Hopefully the format grows even more and we can take part in international events. I hear Singapore also has a few 9394 players but have not yet felt their presence online.

  2. This is an awesome post, thank you so much. :)

    I can't speak for other old school fans, but personally, I have not felt much of an urge to post it on the internet. I guess I feel like I enjoy it, and that's enough in a way. And having seen some of the drama you alluded to, it's hard not to feel like we're not missing out on much . . .

    But I'll end this comment on a lighter note, and say that this post made me resolve to play more old school this year. :)

    "Nothing ever ends."
    -- Dr. Manhattan

  3. Beautiful post. We have not met *yet*, but I thank you the wonderful contribution you have made to make the world a little bit of a better place =)

  4. Thanks a lot for the kind and inspiring comments! :D


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