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By: under_the_hammer, Andrew Phillips
Dec 14 2011 7:09am
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Introduction From Time Vault To Tangle Wire

Classic has been alive and kicking since August 2004 and took its first baby-steps towards the release of Mirage in December 2005. From this point on Classic has been shaped by the release of numerous sets and the sculpting of the Restricted List. We strongly believe that 2011 has been the best year ever for Classic - The metagame has been diverse, events have frequently fired and the Magic Online release of old sets such as Destiny and Masques coupled with eternal gems from the newer sets has helped to shape the evolution of the format.  Zach, George and I do our best to keep you updated with everything classic in our podcast dedicated to the format "Yawgmoth's Soap Opera" - However, We felt there was scope to wrap up the year in text based format, so here we are, with our first Classic Review of the Year.

We hope that you will enjoy our look back at 2011 as we document an important chapter in the history of the format and we hope that whilst you will find this article interesting in the present, it will also be enjoyed in the future like a good novel which deserves revisiting in times gone-bye.

Sit back as we take you on a Journey from the Online Release of Time Vault through to the Online Release of Tangle Wire.

Don't forget to click the links to reveal the appropriate decklists as you read through the article!

Disclaimer: It is not possible to include all of the decks in the format or to reference all of the players or deck innovations in this type of article but we hope to give you an accurate reflection of the headlines.

Release of Master's Edition IV welcomes Fastbond Time Vault Mana Vault and Mishra's Workshop

So to the start the journey we must look at the eagerly anticipated release of Master's Edition IV, released on the 10th January 2011. The set gave us several highlights such as a reprint of all ten Original Alpha/Beta Dual Lands but the real buzz was around the release of Fastbond, Time Vault, Mana Vault and Mishra's Workshop. Sure there was immense disappointment at the 9 missing cards (Aka Power 9), however, once the community was back off the ropes or like some of us up from the canvas, we all regrouped and came out fighting.  One of the early champions of this era was the Mighty Lodestone Golem fuelled by the newly acquired Mishra's Workshop.  The earliest innovations of the deck packed big beaters alongside the 13 omnipresent sphere effects. Shops completed neutered Storm decks and the Gush based decks which require the ability to resolve multiple spells per turn. Below is a sample decklist from one of the first Daily Events to fire post MEDIV.

Click This Link For Sample Shop's Decklist From This Time!

Dedicated hate decks sprung-up but one of the most effective answers to the workshop based plans was Oath of Druids. Whiffy Penguin co-captain of Clan Magic Eternal and our co-host at the microphones of the Soap Opera. Piloted Sun Titan Oath to a money finish. Even though the deck had a strong match-up against the Brown Menace (Sorry MMOGG and all you Shop Lovers) Whiffy felt the need to add maindeck Energy Flux, maindeck Hurkly's Recall a pair of Nature's Claim and a Deed - with the sideboard adding additional protection. The plan to resolve the 2CC Enchantment through sphere effects and activate the Oath from an Orchard Token or an Artifact Monster! -  The ultimate plan to resolve one of the new kids on the block AKA Time Vault and to take infinite turns with its best friend and partner in crime AKA Voltaic Key.  This two card combo was well known in Vintage circles and it wasn't long before it was cropping up in blue based decks across the format.  Urza's Saga Foil Voltaic Key rose in value to be a staggering 25 Tickets (staggering as it is an uncommon, albeit one from an eternal set)

Click This Link For Sample Sun Titan Oath Decklist From This Time!

Sick^7 reminded everyone that loading up your sideboard with anti-shop cards was a fail as it means you have to run soft to dredge. This old favourite cropped up to take a money slot finish. Dredge ebbs and flows in the metagame depending on the level of hate and picked up 40+ money finishes through-out the year; many at the hands of Clan Magic Eternal's "thewilddog".

Click This Link For Sample Dredge Decklist From This Time!

If this timely reminder was not enough - one of the formats best players and innovators showed us that the format had plenty of unexplored potential when he rocked up to a Daily Event at the end of January with a rogue deck, likewise his build had gain nothing directly from the release of MEDIV.  This deck abused Hermit Druid a card that had been off the radar in any format for so long.  It was a perfect metagame call - opponents were soft to graveyard based strategies due to the aforementioned and the plan like that of Oath was simply to resolve and activate a 2CC. The further beauty of this plan was that old-hermit did not get hit in the cross-fire by splash damage (ie all those nature's claims that had cropped up to fight shops).  Importantly too the hermit was able to dodge 4 of the Sphere effects. The community was slow to understand that this deck was the real deal and looking back was very slow to respond by either replicating or tackling this homebrew.  Early props to Xkorpio he took many money finished with the deck and this was only one example, of which there are several, where he has innovated and played his way to the Classic Player of the Year title (note that at the time of writing the race is still on but we would be shocked if he failed to cross the line in 1st Place).

Click This Link For Sample Hermit Druid Decklist From This Time!

The other deck to have game versus shops and thus become viable in the environment at this time was the GW Hatebear deck. Ducking Sphere of Amethyst and packing AEther Vial and Additional Mana to play around the Spheres and coupled with Main deck Pridemage and Sideboard Kataki's to directly blow up their tools.

Click This Link For Sample GW HateBears Decklist From This Time!

The final pillar of the format post MEDIV was JTMS - The deck was hindered by its own finances at the time JTMS was running close to 100 tickets each. JTMS saw play as a supporting role in Oath builds but occasionally popped up as a 3-4 times in a dedicated control shell. This particular example sought to exploit the synergy between Jace and Dark Confidant to overwhelm opponents with sheer card advantage.

Click This Link For Sample Jacerator Decklist From This Time!

Mirrodin Besieged introduced Blightsteel Colossus and Phyrexian Revoker - GG Oath is born

Whiffy rocked up to the 21st February Daily Event with Good Game Oath - This explosive version is still the mainstream Oath Variant - The release of Blightsteel meant that Oath pilots could now win, on the same turn, as the first Oath Activation (assuming it flipped one of the two Dragon Breaths).
Of course Blightsteel became the default Tinker Robot too.

Click This Link For Sample GG Oath Decklist From This Time!

This was also the era of Timmins and his Noble Fish - Mana Acceleration, relevant beaters such as Pridemage coupled with a disruption package of Stifle, Wastelands and numerous conterspells.  This little deck had great game versus Oath and Shop and enabled Timmins to get an early run on the player of the year race.

Click This Link For Sample Noble Fish Decklist From This Time!

Urza's Destiny introduced Metalworker and Yawgmoth's Bargain

The release of Destiny was all about the Metalworker - Capable of generating an obscene amount of colorless mana. The ability to play a Turn 1 worker only to activate it on Turn 2 and dump a hand of threats and spheres was feared throughout the community.  The other card of note from this set was Yawgmoth's Bargain. 

Click This Link For Sample Metalworker Decklist From This Time!

It's that man again - Mr Xkorpio - he rocked a Bargain-based deck to the money. This version was akin to the Necrospike deck which dominated Classic for a period of its live before the Skull Necropotence was restricted in the format (alongside Demonic Consultation). The plan was simple resolve a Bargain either directly or via Show n' Tell.  

Click This Link For Sample Bargain Storm Decklist From This Time!

New Phyrexia introduced Slash Panther Phyrexian Metamorph Mental Misstep and More!!

Our vote for sleeper of the year has to be Slash Panther. There were so many good eternal cards released from this set. The power of Phyrexian Mana was clear to see, yet, somehow everyone missed the seemingly overcosted hasty 4/2 Panther. It first made the headlines in Vintage and quickly descended to Classic, where the previous Big Beater were dropped in favour of Revokers, Panthers, Lodestone and Metamorph. This variant has taken 20+ Money finished (50% of which are attributed to Montolio of Clan Magic Eternal)

Click This Link For Sample Cat Stax Fever Decklist From This Time!

The Commander decks introduced Flusterstorm and Scavenging Ooze

Timmins added Scavenging Ooze to his 4cc Fish builds as a way to combat Hermit Druid and other graveyard based decks. The ooze was a force on its own though capable of growing into a huge beatstick. Although people debated the strengths of Flusterstorm and playtested it hard it was not well suited to the Shop, Fish, Dredge Meta of this time. It took the printing of Snapcaster Mage for people to re-discover this new counterspell on the block.

The Classic League is Born Season 1 is a huge success and corran_34 takes the win.

During the summer months Classic was on the wane, events were not firing or at least only sporadically; due to a number of reasons. However, MMOGG from Clan Lotus Farmers was the pillar in the community who stood up and took on the idea and responsibility of establishing a league for the format.  I think it is fair to say its success exceeded everyone's expectations and is still going strong.

Season One Coverage:
http://puremtgo.com/articles/classic-league-season-1-0 -Decklists
http://puremtgo.com/articles/classic-league-goodbye-season-1-hello-season-2 -Results

Magic 2012 bought us Lord of the Unreal aka Illusions and Rune-Scarred Demon

The Core sets historically don't add much to the eternal formats, but resident deck innovator Xkorpio was again on the case as he brewed and piloted Illusion to money-slots on 5 occasions.  Quickly written off by many as a power version of Merfolk this tempo driven blue beat machine proved to be a legitimate force against the field and would later evolve with the printing of Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets in Innistrad.

Click This Link For Sample Illusion's Decklist From This Time!
Click This Link For Sample GWB Haterade Decklist From This Time!

Worth mentioning during this timeframe was the emergence of Staff of Domination in the Metalworker shells. With enough cards in hand this sets up a very powerful engine to draw out your library or gain "infinite" (clicks allowing) life.

Click This Link For Sample Worker Staff Decklist From This Time!
Click This Link For Sample Welder Shop Decklist From This Time!

The Classic League Season 2 see's Abstrakt66 win with Channel Emrakul Oath.

Season Two Coverage
http://puremtgo.com/articles/classic-league-season-2-hook -Decklists
http://puremtgo.com/articles/classic-league-season-2 -Results

Innistrad bought us Snapcaster Mage and Laboratory Maniac

Before we reach Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster mage, we should pause slightly and take a look at the new kid on the control block or rather the return of the old kid. Themagicman_22 from Clan Lotus Farmer has been having recent success with a techy Landstill deck ala Jacerator. The deck packs a huge disruption suite, Standstills and 4 Jace with the sole of aim of playing slow grind control. Death inflicted by Mishra's Factory, Ultimate Jace, or Sower and Co Beats. This deck marked a real change in the pace for the format.

Click This Link For Sample Landstill Decklist From This Time!
Click This Link For Sample Snapcaster Decklist From This Time!

Click This Link For "Library 4 th Win" Decklist From This Time!

The Classic League Season 3 is underway - At the time of writing we are down to the Top 4 - The Classic League has been a huge success and we can look forward to this continuing in full-force into the New Year and Beyond - Big Props to MMOGG the founder of the League. The Top4 in Season 3 is Themagicman_22, Themaniac, Osric250 and Stewardulk (The latter is looking to make it to the final of all Three Seasons!)

Masques block bought us (Tanglewire) And Misdirection

The big news was the release of the entire block - no more WOTC slow roll.  All three sets at once to leave only 9 cards remaining!!! Shop Players must have really loved 2011 - First came Mishra's Workshop, followed by Metalworker and Slash Panther and now they have a feared weapon in the form of Tangle Wire. How will Shop decks evolve as 2011 comes to a close and 2012 rolls in. Will we start to see Smokestack prison replacing the Cat Stax Fever builds?  The block was released too close to end of the year to report its impact but be sure to tune into Yawgmoth's Soap Opera over the coming weeks for all the latest discussion.

Classic Quarter Player Of The Year Race:
At the close of writing this article it appears that Xkorpio has an unassailable lead. The Tournament deadline was extended until the 8th of January - Full coverage at http://www.classicquarter.com/tournaments/  I am sure you will all agree that Xkorpio is a worth winner of the Classic Quarter Player of the Year 2011 Race - Props to his success and innovation: Hermit Druid, Bargian Spike, Illusions, 4 Library Challenge and more! - Well Done Sir!
2011 Newcomer Card Awards

blightsteel colossus

  slash panther   fastbond  Mishra's Workshop  
 All Star of the Year  Sleeper of the Year  Under-Perfomer of the Year  Best-Performer of the Year  

Classic in 2011 has been shaped by set releases, metagame shifts and innovation. Despite the large cardpool and powerful interactions there has been no need to look to the restricted list this year - Will 4 times Gush Library decks or Tanglewire Shops require attention in early 2012 or will the player and the environment react and adjust. - Only time will tell !!  

Looking Ahead to 2012

We believe and hope that the Power 9 will be released online during 2012.  The impact of this would be huge to both Paper Vintage and Magic Online.  Classic has long lived in the shadow of Vintage - but we believe that 2011 has demonstrated without doubt that Classic is a fine format in its own right. A diverse format offering the room for innovation and rewarding those who are prepared to attack the metagame.  Whatever the future holds in 2012 I am sure Classic will thrive and challenge and enjoy its spot in the limelight. We accept that there is a reasonable chance, in fact we hope and dream, that Power 9 will be released onto Magic Online in 2012*. Nevertheless, Classic will always be an important part of the history of MTGO.

* - For further discussion see http://puremtgo.com/articles/eternal-uncertainty-two-years

That's all for now - take care guys and of course you Vicki!

Hope You Enjoyed This Review See You In 2012
Best Wishes,
Hammer and Hoff - Both Proud Members of Clan Magic Eternal and Co-Hosts of Yawgmoth's Soap Opera.

As with all the content we produce we welcome your comments and feedback.

APPENDIX I: Current Restricted List and Links to Announcements



Nice work Zach and Andy by Cronin at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 10:18
Cronin's picture

Nice work Zach and Andy it's great to see all the different decks

That black "Phyrexian oil" by Lord Erman at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 10:39
Lord Erman's picture

That black "Phyrexian oil" you guys injected into my mind during the last year did its work (I think you guys call it "Classic" in your wicked Phyrexian language!!!). My transformation is about to be finished and I'm about to be "compleat". I hope you evil Phyrexian agents are happy now!!

Joking aside, I'm bookmarking this for future reference. I think I'm going to need this in the early days of 2012. Classic is the inevitable "end" for me, but there are just a few things I must do before becoming an addict.


Wow! by apaulogy at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 12:37
apaulogy's picture

This is really comprehensive.

As Lord Erman said above, my end game is to get involved in classic.

I just need to build my collection a bit before that happens.

I love this. Great Job.

Sigh.... and here I thought I by pryite199 at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 13:18
pryite199's picture

Sigh.... and here I thought I had gotten away from the claws of classic, only for the insidious winter celebration sink its teeth into me. Be seeing you guys in the queues!

great job! by one million words at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 13:24
one million words's picture

Wizards just announced a bunch of Classic events, and special Classic-only promos, as part of the Holiday Celebration. It's thanks mainly to the work you folks, including Hoff, Hammer, Whiffy, MMogg and the rest, have done that Wizards is giving Classic a Christmas present. Without your efforts, Classic could have been the next Prismatic.

Good work, and Happy Holidays!

Thanks Pete really appreciate by under_the_hammer at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 14:31
under_the_hammer's picture

Thanks Pete really appreciate the kind words.

A stellar example of where by deluxeicoff at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 13:24
deluxeicoff's picture

A stellar example of where the bar should be set for a great article here on puremtgo. This is the type of writing that acts as a bookmark, requiring 'careful study' of said format..A great resource. I love the disclamer in red too...I'm always irked when, after spending so much time on an article, someone goes.."oh I loved it, but what about..." As you implied, there's no end to that - and it's kinda sad we have to disclose the obvious!

Thanks Deluxicoff - It is by under_the_hammer at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 14:32
under_the_hammer's picture

Thanks Deluxicoff - It is great to know the hard work is appreciate. We spent a lot of time putting this togehter. Trying to do the best job we could and taking pride in our work. Hopefully it will entice a few more people to take a look at classic :D

yay for this. Year has been by whiffy at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 13:49
whiffy's picture

yay for this. Year has been pretty sexy for Classic.

Although Xkorpio is well on track to having clinched the poty, there is a small chance that the increased events and the top 8 champs of the winter celebration can propel 2nd place the 16 or 18 points needed to the finish line. Everyone loves a come back story right? ha ha.

great article duders. Hopefully the consistent exposure and the winter champs will continue to grow the format and retain more new players.

Go Go Go classic!

Thanks Whiffy - Yes I agree by under_the_hammer at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 14:34
under_the_hammer's picture

Thanks Whiffy - Yes I agree the Winter Classic Challenge has opened the door on the Race. This article was submitted the day before the promotion was announced. Great to see Wizards supporting classic. I hope they will support the people supporting classic with a tweet etc. Tom I am looking at You!

Wow a true opus. I am by Paul Leicht at Wed, 12/14/2011 - 17:39
Paul Leicht's picture

Wow a true opus. I am astounded at the amount of detail collected here. If I ever get enough $ cards together (:p) to feel comfortable in Classic...well I'll still be playing mainly in the Juff but as ever admiring the efforts here and in the various clans/leagues and Dailies/PEs. I always looked at Classic (erroneously) as a somewhat stifled format until you guys started explaining it better. Thanks for that.

Wow .... what an impressive by LOurs at Thu, 12/15/2011 - 09:49
LOurs's picture

Wow .... what an impressive amount of work behind this article. It's almost an habit from you, but each time very informative & interesting contents, detailled and all.
You deserve the award of Hammer of the year ! ;)
Just go on with that, it's just ... passionating !