This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Ancient Wisdom

By Old Man Fred

Fred’s General EDH Disclaimer:
What I’m about to say, while written to be as broad as possible, is not applicable to every person in every play group everywhere. If some guy in your play group uses Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore in every deck, and that somehow makes what I’m about to say totally wrong, don’t flame me. Your mileage may vary.

As long as Mark Rosewater isn’t talking about EDH, he often has interesting and insightful things to say (this is not a dig at MR. I like MR. However, he stated in his article about EDH that he doesn’t play the format, and then went on to pontificate about how it should be changed). Before he came to work for WotC, he was a writer, including for the TV show Roseanne. He has lots of interesting things to say about writing and the idea of creativity.

One thing he wrote once, that the more I thought about the more I realized how true it was, is that creativity thrives on restriction. It’s very true. There are examples all throughout history and all over the world of people being restricted in some way, and finding a way because of sheer will. I am a firm believer in the idea that “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Now in his discussion of creativity thriving on restriction, Mark Rosewater was talking about the limits of card design. I am not a card designer. I am a deck builder. So I’ll be talking about limitations in deck building.

Some History
More than ten years ago (my brief research on the subject could not yield an exact date) Extended rotated. My understanding is that now this is a normal occurrence, but the first time it happened, it was a shock.

Let me explain: Back in the day, there were two constructed formats: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 was every set plus a banned and restricted list. Type 2 was more recent sets plus a banned and restricted list. Yes, once upon a time, Type 2 had a restricted list.

Then they wanted to make seem Type 2 less luck based, so the restricted list became a banned list. Now you didn’t win or lose because you drew your one-of restricted power card. That’s when they created Type 1.5, with the same premise, the restricted cards from Type 1 became banned in 1.5. That’s why, for so many years, the 1.5 banned list was tied to the Type 1 restricted list. But back in the mid 1990s, people were afraid of power cards like Kird Ape and Hypnotic Specter (no, this is not a joke), so the format known as Extended, or Type 1.X was born. It was like 1.5, except better, because a few power cards like Kird Ape and Hypnotic Specter and Juggernaut were banned (no, really).

And everyone was happy, until WotC decided to screw with everything again around 1999.

They decided to rotate older sets out of Extended, including Revised and 4th Edition. Everyone went bonkers, because by this time, Extended was known as the format you could play dual lands in. Since they were so expensive (20 bucks each!), they made an exception; Revised and 4th Edition and several other expansions were rotated, but they made a specific exception for the ten original dual lands. But they said there would be another rotation in a few years, and they’d be rotated at that time.

And everyone was happy, except for me.

The Birth of Fred Block
See, I started playing in January of 1995. My first ever cards were from Revised, and my first expansion was from Fallen Empires. To clarify how long ago 1995 was, it was before the new tap symbol and before the new white mana symbol (did you know there was an old white mana symbol?).

I have a sentimental attachment to Revised and 4th Edition. For example, 4th Edition was the last time for several years they reprinted Lightning Bolt, Savannah Lions, Stasis, Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, Swords to Plowshares, and several other cards that defined Magic for me in my early years.

So I was annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to play Lightning Bolt in Extended anymore. I knew of Type 1.5, but I didn’t play it regularly, nor was it as common or mainstream as Legacy is today. So, I piled all these cards that were no longer legal in Legacy into one box.

Then I hit on an idea. I could create a format where all these cards were legal. So I did.

Since I’m an egomaniac, I called it Fred Block. In it was any pre-Ice Age cards, and a very specific banned and restricted list, based on what was banned and restricted back around 1995, like Regrowth, Wheel of Fortune, and Balance. Things like Black Vise and Strip Mine, that I had seen first hand unrestricted were restricted. I exempted from the banned list Chaos Orb and it’s bad knock off cousin from Legends. Instead, I restricted Chaos Orb. I figured if someone had a Chaos Orb and wanted to play it, they were welcome to.

I also realized that most people do not/did not have the card pool that I have, and since I wanted to play this format, I built several decks to play with: a white weenie, a black weenie with Mind Twist (also restricted), a bad red/green aggro deck built as an excuse to play Barbary Apes, a control-ish blue deck, a red/blue Urza-tron deck, that kind of thing. It was fun to play with these ancient cards, but eventually it got old and I got tired of playing against my own decks, so I disassembled them. However, I still keep a Fred Block binder. Every time I pick up something really old that I’ll never use anywhere else, it goes in there (Fishliver Oil ftw!).

Fred Block meets EDH
The notion of Fred Block never died. I still have the binder. So I set out to build a Fred Block EDH deck.

The card pool of pre-Ice Age sets is very limited:

4th Edition

Arabian Nights
The Dark
Fallen Empires

It’s not as big as it looks. Alpha, Beta and Unlimited are, for all intents and purposes, the same 302 cards. And Revised and 4th Edition have reprints, but only up through The Dark. So the total card pool is only around a thousand cards.

On top of that, certain card functions that we take as commonplace did not exist back then. For example, there are only two land search cards (Untamed Wilds and Land Tax), there’s very little mana fixing, there’s no Brainstorm or Impulse type effects, comes-into-play abilities were unheard of, and there are literally ZERO mono colored legendary creatures.

I began this project with a general. Since it’s Elder Dragon Highlander, I figured I’d use an actual Elder Dragon Legend. I have tons of reprints, but the only one I have from Legends at the moment is Arcades Sabboth.

So I had my color combination and I built the deck. Then one night, as the deck was coming together, I traded for a Legends legend that fit my colors, and would be an amazing general: Angus Mackenzie!

He is white/blue/green and costs WUG to cast. He is a 2/2, and his ability is pay WUG, tap: FOG! This guy is a repeatable fogger! This change, this last minute audible I called, ended up defining the entire nature of the deck.

What I did with this deck was take modern concepts of deck construction, mana curve, mana balance, card advantage, and applied them to this very restrictive and very primitive (not putting it down at all, just stating a fact) card pool.

The result was an amazingly fun and functional EDH deck.

Why this tale? Why did I tell you about the first Extended rotation, creating my own format and about building an EDH deck in that format? To prove a point: creativity thrives on restriction. This deck is a blast to play because the restriction means I end up playing and making people fear Book of Rass. It gives me a chance to build something interesting and awesome. Try to tell me that isn’t an accomplishment.

You’re reading this because you play EDH and probably love it. And if you love EDH that’s because you love building unique and creative decks. There’s no pro tour deck list of EDH decks that people copy. I would want to punch anybody who copied some kind of winning EDH deck card for card. It’s ok to steal ideas, steal concepts, steal combos, but we build for EDH and we play EDH because we love a format where creativity and ingenuity are rewarded.

So I challenge you to challenge yourself. Come up with your own restrictions and build decks around them. You will find it is a very satisfying enterprise.

Fred’s Bonus:
I teased you enough, here’s the deck listing. Two notes: I built this out of the cards I have and I built it out of what was available. Yes, Tundra belongs in this deck, I only own one and it was in a better deck at the time.

Angus Mckenzie

Creatures and creature makers:
Arcades Sabbath
The Hive
Azure Drake
Vesuvan Doppleganger
Time Elemental
Serra Angel
Phantom Monster
Rubina Soulsinger
Mahamoti Djinn
Air Elemental
Phantasmal Forces
Apprentice Wizard
Witch Hunter

Avoid Fate
Remove Soul
Spell Blast

Land Search/Mana Generation:
Land Tax
Wild Growth
Untamed Wilds

Card Advantage:
Disrupting Scepter
Jayemdae Tome
Brain Geyser
Book of Rass (Fear it!)
Sylvan Library

Control Cards:
Control Magic
Dust to Dust
Swords to Plowshares
Icy Manipulator
Steal Artifact
Desert Twister
Horn of Deafening
Presence of the Master (Einstein ftw)

Fog Effects/Life Gain:
Ivory Tower
Holy Day

Artifact Mana:
Sol Ring
Copy Artifact
Fellwar Stone
Basalt Monolith
Mana Vault

Maze of Ith
City of Brass
Havenwood Battleground
Svyelunite Temple
Ruins of Trokair
Tropical Island
Strip Mine
12 Forest
12 Plains
13 Island

Series Navigation<< Ancient Wisdom 01 – Because It’s There: Milling in EDHAncient Widsom 03 – Begging to be Fed >>