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The Road To Tourneyland: A New Golden Age
By Mark Ortego
Sometime just after this past Christmas Holiday Season, a number of my students have either started playing Magic again, or are trying it for the first time. This has been an amazing time for me because I really didn't have the pleasure of experiencing Magic like you hear about back in the "Golden Age" (circa 1994-1996), when everything was new and fresh, when you tried to make decks from any or all of your collection what with 125-card decks and such. But that's what is happening here at the school where I teach.

Before the bell rings for homeroom, the band wing is filled with a lot of kids playing and practicing their music, or playing Magic or chess, or just hanging out watching others play.

It's kinda cool.

I am no 'rules laywer' by any stretch of the imagination. But to the kids, I am. There are questions about "The Stack" all the time, and about First Strike and mostly, about timing: Mr. "O", what does "In Response to..." mean?

Sometimes I believe that this is what it must've been like in the early days and I'm in some kind of time machine. Just the other day a kid asked me if it was legal to "Gang" block, and when I said "Yes.", the whole crowd watching the game cheered like I had given them permission to take the rest of the day off or something.

Being the type of person I am (a teacher/U-W control type), I have been giving them a lttle help in the ways of decks. I sometimes feel like I am vilolating the "Prime Directive" by making decks and giving them away to some of these guys.
I had made an almost all-common deck loosely based on "Counter-Sliver." It had 4x Counterspells, 4x Mana Leak, 2x Power Sinks, 4x Muscle/Winged/Talon Slivers, some Disenchants and Last Breaths, and assorted other stuff, with only basic land and no search cards. It was weak, but not in this environment! This deck rocked. It was "The Deck to Beat" amongst the new guys.

But I couldn't leave well-enough alone. As one kid (I'll him Hawkeye, because he doesn't miss a thing going on around him) got better at playing the deck, I started to beef it up a little. I put in Terminal Morraine to smooth out the mana base, Impulse for searching, and Crystalline Slivers because I found them in the commons box at the store for a dime. Whew, now this thing was starting to beat the guys who've been playing since this past summer. The real boost was last week when Hawkeye had two Waterspout Elementals and Forsaken City I wanted and I told him I could make his deck a little better if he would trade those cards to me. He he said "yes," so I gave him 3x Swords to Plwoshares, a Survival of the Fittest, a Star Compass and 60x black sleeves with a box (when he becomes tournament viable, I told him I'll trade for the Survival back, and give him something he can use).

Now he's something like a 50%-plus win record with his newly-revised deck. I had certainly interfered with the natural progression of things, so I tried to fix it.
Last week, another kid, who I'll call Little Bear, was not doing too well with his Highlander style of Five-Color Whatever, so I made him an almost all-common Stompy Green Deck. It had a steep mana curve with 16x 1cc's and 12x 2cc's and 8x 3cc's and 4x 4cc's and 2x Overrun's and some Forests. I thought I was helping . Little Bear is cleaning house! He's about 50/50 against Hawkeye's Counter-Sliver and just rolling over most of the other guys (It's the Overrun's). I told about Hurricane and he's going to go buy one or two soon. OY!

Since then, a lot of the guys come to me to help them "make over" their decks, so I don't feel so bad now . I'll give away goofy rares and uncommons if their decks can benefit from them in the slightest. My collection is somewhat depleting, but that's okay; it's what I do.

This experience has helped me a lot in the way of tournament play because of all the questions. It has forced me to revisit all the rules and mechanics and even the nuances of playing (i.e. Swords a creature in response to it being Rancor'd, or playing a tap ability at the end of your opponent's turn). It's cool.

Well, I don't know if it was really like this back in the "Golden Age" of Magic but I know it feels like it to these kids .

That's all for now, not much tourney action lately due to various honors bands and the musical. From that long and dusty road To tourneyland, this is Yellowjacket, reminding all of you to play clean, untap during your untap step, and don't forget to attack!

Later.

Read More Articles by Mark Ortego!

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