My favorite way to play casual Magic



I’m a big fan of Magic and its long history. I enjoy rewatching some of the best coverage matches every once in a while and remember pretty much every name from most of the PT Top 8s in the last 20 years.  

There have been some crazy decks, incredible matches and timely top-decks all over the years. Early on, I was always watching from home as a fan of the game and later on I got to experience some of those moments as a player. 

I already covered some of my favorite decks I played during my years on the tour, some of which I still have at home, but today I wanted to share my favorite casual way to play Magic. 

After the first ever Pro Tour in 1996 in Seattle, Wizards of the Coast made a commemorative “Pro Tour Collector Set”, which was a box with eight of some of the best performing decks from the event. Every deck features the full 60 (or more) cards from the main deck,15 sideboard cards, a decklist card and even 15 blank cards which you could use to make your own proxies. All the cards from this set have gold borders and a different back side, which means they are free to use for casual play, but they are not tournament legal.  

 

Starting with 1997 up until 2004, four of these gold bordered decks were released after every World Championship. You can find more information about all of them and full deck lists here 

The set from the first Pro Tour featured some really wild decks. Playing three colors with only 22 lands in a format where most players packed four Strip Mine wasn’t uncommon. Serra Angel and Autumn Willow were some of the best finishers. Almost every deck, including control decks, featured Armageddon, Land Tax and Zuran Orb, and even aggressive white decks usually packed four copies of Wrath of God and Disenchant.  

Bertrand Lestree, Finalist 1996 

4 Brushland 

1 Havenwood Battleground 

6 Forest 

6 Plains 

1 Ruins of Trokair 

4 Strip Mine 

2 Fellwar Stone 

2 Icy Manipulator 

1 Ivory Tower 

1 Zuran Orb 

2 Order of Leitbur 

1 Serra Angel 

1 Autumn Willow 

4 Erhnam Djinn 

2 Fyndhorn Elves 

2 Llanowar Elves 

2 Spectral Bears 

3 Armageddon 

1 Balance 

4 Disenchant 

2 Land Tax 

4 Swords to Plowshares 

2 Wrath of God 

2 Sylvan Library 

 

Sideboard 

1 Black Vise 

2 Abbey Gargoyles 

2 Divine Offering 

2 Circle of Protection: Green 

2 Circle of Protection: Red 

2 Karma 

1 Order of Leitbur 

1 Wrath of God 

2 Whirling Dervish 

1997 featured Jakub Slemr as the World Champion, which was obviously a huge thing back in my home country, the Czech Republic. Some of these decks already have some all time favorite cards like Force of Will and Incinerate 

My favorite deck from the 1998 edition is Randy Beuhler’s famous “Draw, Go” Mono-Blue Control which features about 35 counters, 20 lands and one finisher. Playing against this deck must have been a nightmare.  

Draw, Go, Randy Buehler 1998 

1 Rainbow Efreet 

4 Counterspell 

4 Dismiss 

2 Dissipate 

3 Forbid 

4 Force Spike 

4 Impulse 

3 Mana Leak 

1 Memory Lapse 

4 Whispers of the Muse 

4 Nevinyrral's Disk 

18 Island 

4 Quicksand 

4 Stalking Stones 

 

Sideboard 

2 Capsize 

1 Grindstone 

4 Hydroblast 

4 Sea Sprite 

4 Wasteland 

 

The years 1999 and 2000 featured some of the most busted Standard decks of all time. Cards like Grim Monolith, Tinker, Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors allowed for some crazy opening draws and fast games. The Worlds winners from these two years? Jon Finkel and Kai Budde, no big deal.  

Mono-Blue Tinker, Jon Finkel 1999 

4 Masticore 

4 Metalworker 

1 Phyrexian Colossus 

1 Crumbling Sanctuary 

4 Grim Monolith 

1 Mishra's Helix 

4 Phyrexian Processor 

4 Tangle Wire 

4 Thran Dynamo 

4 Voltaic Key 

4 Tinker 

4 Brainstorm 

4 Crystal Vein 

9 Island 

4 Rishadan Port 

4 Saprazzan Skerry 

 

Sideboard 

4 Annul 

4 Chill 

4 Miscalculation 

1 Mishra's Helix 

2 Rising Waters 

 

2001 was the year of Fires of Yavimaya decks, but in the end it was Tom van de Logt taking it all down with his version of Machine Head, a red-black aggressive deck featuring Dark Ritual 

 

Machine Head, Tom van de Logt 2001 

 

4 Plague Spitter 

3 Phyrexian Scuta 

3 Skizzik 

2 Flametongue Kavu 

2 Crypt Angel 

4 Blazing Specter 

4 Duress 

4 Dark Ritual 

4 Terminate 

3 Vendetta 

3 Urza's Rage 

 

6 Swamp 

6 Mountain 

4 Rishadan Port 

4 Urborg Volcano 

4 Sulfurous Springs 

 

Sideboard 

4 Scoria Cat 

3 Addle 

2 Persecute 

1 Pyroclasm 

3 Phyrexian Arena 

1 Flametongue Kavu 

1 Crypt Angel 

 

2002 was when I was getting into Magic, so most of these decks are the ones I grew up playing with. Carlos Romao’s famous Psychatog, Daniel Zink’s Mirari’s Wake, Blue-Green Madness, Goblin Bidding or 15-year old Julien Nuijten’s winning G/W Astral Slide deck from 2004.  

Blue-White Anti-Affinity Control, Gabriel Nassif 2004 

3 Wayfarer's Bauble 

2 Eternal Dragon 

3 Exalted Angel 

3 Annul 

3 Condescend 

4 Mana Leak 

3 Rewind 

4 Thirst for Knowledge 

2 Akroma's Vengeance 

4 Decree of Justice 

4 Wrath of God 

4 Cloudpost 

4 Flooded Strand 

7 Island 

7 Plains 

3 Temple of the False God 

 

Sideboard 

4 Purge 

3 Pacifism 

2 Relic Barrier 

3 Scrabbling Claws 

3 Stifle 

 

 

A couple of years ago, I decided to collect all 40 of them, which wasn’t easy, especially since I always wanted an unopened copy with all the blank cards, deck list and a box. Luckily I was able to collect them all before the spiking popularity of commander and rising prices of older cards made some of them skyrocket in value, as many players are using some of the cards like Gaea’s Cradle and Grim Monolith as proxies in their EDH decks and Cube.  

These days, I usually grab a few of them with my friends and play them against each other. Sometimes we take all the decks from one year and see how they matched up against each other, sometimes we try and see if Randy’s Draw Go deck can ever beat Mono-Red Aggro and sometimes we do a Jon vs Kai battle from different years. 

The fun part is playing with rules corresponding with the time. This includes hits like playing interrupts, putting damage on the stack and the old mulligan rules where you could only mulligan if your hand contained exactly zero or one land.  

My favorite matchup is probably playing the Psychatog mirror. I picked up a second copy of the deck just for this purpose, as it really teaches you a lot about control mirrors with a lot of instant speed card draw and permission spells.  

So there you have it, my favorite way to play casual Magic with my friends for fun!  

What is yours? 

Author: Martin Juza

Magic the Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFB UltimateGuard

Martin learned to play Magic at a young age after he saw some of his classmates playing it. Once he learned, he built a beginner deck and ever since then, he’s been hooked. Considered one of the top players in the world, his busy travel schedule made him become a real Magic Globetrotter, representing the game worldwide. Learn more about Martin.

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