It was morning.
I found myself in a beautiful, Italian, mansion parlour, my eyes wandering around the unusual scenery. I sipped my coffee. Richard Garfield himself was enjoying breakfast only a few meters from our table.
“Let’s try something I’ve been working on for a while”, said Martin Berlin, as he pulled a few deck boxes out of his bag and handed out to the four of us. The nostalgia was tangible as we drew our first sevens.
Fast forward three years, and I loathe to say I have yet to play Premodern again.
That, however, is about to change.
Suffering from Sciurophobia
As I try to get a grip on the format, I find myself asking: “where do I even start”? The deck section here is excellent, but limited. How do I get an overview of the shape and nature of the format?
It dawned on me that the place to start would be reading up on Extended.
The Extended format never covered quite the same timespan as Premodern, the two most relevant periods being:
mtgtop8: Ice Age–Odyssey (with ABUR duals)
Ice Age, Alliances, Homelands, Mirage, 5th Edition, Tempest, Urza’s, 6th Edition, Masques, Invasion, 7th Edition, Odyssey, duals
Tempest, Urza’s, 6th Edition, Masques, Invasion, 7th Edition, Odyssey, Onslaught, Mirrodin, Kamigawa
While other periods have some relevance, these two have the largest overlap. The first time period misses out on 4th Edition, Chronicles and Onslaught. The second includes two sets that are not legal in Premodern. Perusing the old lists on mtgtop8, we find that many of the card choices in the Extended sections are legal in today’s Premodern.
We quickly expand our deck name vocabulary with:
Sligh, The Rock, Trix, Angry Hermit, Three-Deuce, Suicide Black, Fiends, Secret Force, Draco Explosion, Oath, Reanimator, Psychatog, Aluren, and the list goes on.
“Feed me, my millions”—The Rock, Probably
Great, we’re ready to blindly netdeck, but where do we go to find out why the lists look the way they do? To brew and tune, we need to form an understanding of the basis behind card choices in the various lists.
Fortunately, StarCity Games has an excellent archive of Extended articles, filterable by the relevant years.
There we find everything from tournament reports, match up strategies, sideboard tech, and deck list tuning. Some of my favourite blast-from-the-past articles are:
Looking at old articles can only get us so far, considering that both the ban list and the number of legal sets are different. It does, however, give us a base to stand on as we throw ourselves into this wide open format.
But wait, is that legal?
When, for example, an article mentions that Swords to Plowshares has just rotated, opening up the possibility for another deck to shine, we have to remember that this format defining all-star is legal in Premodern.
Wasteland was very popular during early Extended, which can likely be attributed to the special rule that kept ABUR duals legal. In Premodern, unless your deck is geared towards mana denial, Wasteland serves better as a utility card.
Two of the most popular cards in old Extended lists were Brainstorm and Vampiric Tutor. Both of these are banned in Premodern, reducing consistency, or the possibility of easily building toolbox-style decks.
After my journey through the historic archives, I find myself trying to shape The Rock to my liking, scouring the giant card-pool for answers. Right now I’m looking closely at Funeral Charm, or Vendetta, as answers to the rampant Goblin Lackey.
Where will you start?
Martin Stark is a casual Magic player from Stockholm, Sweden. He started playing during Odyssey block, dabbling in Type 2 and Limited. During the past few years he used to frequent GPs around Europe for most formats. Today, he plays Legacy, Vintage, and Limited but also visits other formats from time to time. Martin manages the Premodern subreddit r/premodernMTG.