Nostalgia versus Longevity

When managing a format played with old cards, like Old Frame Vintage, one of the main dilemmas is whether we should try to maximise nostalgia at any cost or whether it is worth sacrificing some of its “purity” to make it more attractive to newer players

A big percentage of the people playing this format were already playing Vintage in 2003, so we could replicate what Vintage was in Scourge. What would we have to do in that case? 

  1. Change the banned and restricted list. This means restricting cards that have not been problematic at all, like Black Vise or Braingeyser, while also allowing 4 copies of Brainstorm and Merchant Scroll. If you are curious about the exact list, it is the Scourge Vintage one.
  2. Allow the same sets as those days. That means we should not allow any Portal sets or Starter 1999.
  3. Use the same errata as in Scourge. So, for example, Time Vault could only be untapped by skipping a turn, the Judgment wishes could look for removed from the game cards, not just those from the sideboard, Phyrexian Dreadnought could not be cheated into play with something like a Stifle, Illusionary Mask would not “cast”, but just “put into play”, etc.
  4. Use the same rules as in the Sixth Edition. There would still be mana burn, damage would still go to the stack, and we would use the Paris mulligan.

If we chose that route, the format could be more attractive to some players as it would feel more “authentic”. However, even if we ignore the first two points and assume the format does not benefit from any changes, it would become increasingly hard to remember the differences between current Magic and how things worked in Scourge. It would be harder to find judges that know those old rules. It would be very confusing for those who have never played with those rules or play in other formats with contemporary rules. 

On top of that, even if somehow we could stay in that Scourge Vintage bubble, it would not feel the same. In 2003, Vintage, more commonly called Type 1, was very different from what we would see nowadays if we played with the same cards and rules. This is because Type 1 those days for lots of people was simply “Magic”. It was the only place where you could play almost anything. Furthermore, proxies were generally not allowed. 

When we combine both things, it means that lots of people just played with what they had or with what they liked. The percentage of “casual” players and “suboptimal” decks was much higher than now. We can not replicate that experience. We can not “unlearn” that Brainstorm and Merchant Scroll are great cards, although they were not played that much those days. A Stompy deck finished second in a 400-person Type 1 tournament, while it is unlikely it would do that well today.

Once upon a time, there were some rancorous players in Type 1.

Therefore, even if we went back to Scourge Vintage, it would still feel off. And we would have created a bubble that new players are unlikely to want to join. This means the format would not last long.

What else can we do? What we are doing with Old Frame Vintage. Instead of copying how things were, we use the current knowledge to create the best possible Vintage format in which only cards printed before Eighth Edition are allowed. This is why we allow the Portal sets and Starter 1999. This is also why we have been tweaking the restricted list as we saw some cards did not deserve to be there and others had to be added. 

We use contemporary errata and rules for the reasons previously mentioned, to make life easier for judges and people who did not play those days, or who do not remember how things worked. 

We approach this format as if it were an official format run by Wizards, in which only cards originally printed between Alpha and Scourge were allowed. A place where the most powerful cards released in that era can be used. 

Although it seems like we are making some “nostalgia sacrifices” with our approach, our goal is to increase the likelihood that we can play with our favourite Old Frame cards in the future, even if that involves giving up on some things. Do not you think it is worth it?