This week the Magic-playing community got some major news: Namely, Mark Rosewater’s announcement (or linked series of announcements) regarding two-set blocks, no more Core Set, and a new Standard rotation schedule. I’m going to leave breaking down all the implications of this news to Hipsters’ intrepid reporter, Rich Stein, on Monday—but I did want to briefly lament the passing of three-set Magic blocks.

I got back into the game during Guildpact, aka the second set of original Ravnica. Drafting-wise, I really had no idea what the fuck I was doing then, and didn’t for some time after, through Time Spiral and Lorwyn/Shadowmoor blocks. I got a bit more of a clue during Shards, but Alara Reborn (the all-gold set) really tested my drafting skills, and my W/L ratio plummeted. (Not that I was tracking such things at the time, but still.) Next up was Zendikar/Worldwake, during which I also had some success, and the standalone Rise of the Eldrazi.

But it was Scars block when I really started playing competitively, and also when things began to click for me in terms of drafting. And as much fun as Scars of Mirrodin was, when Mirrodin Beseiged came along, it really changed things up, lessening both the importance of Black-Green Infect and Metalcraft as archtypes. As the block progressed, and New Phyrexia came out, suddenly you could do crazy shit like splash off-color cards thanks to Phyrexian mana (Slash Panther, anyone?) or go Blue-Red Infect!

In the following years we had “real” three-set blocks in the form of Return to Ravnica/Gatecrash/Dragon’s Maze (kind of) and, of course, Theros/Born of the Gods/Journey Into Nyx, both of which I really enjoyed, even if Dragon’s Maze was a bit of a mess and Born of the Gods somewhat underwhelming. Honestly I wished we’d gotten longer to spend with these completed blocks, but alas! Special products like Modern Masters and Vintage Masters came along and swept them away.

I do, however, have a healthy stock of old booster packs, including a box each of Theros, Born, and Journey, which I got a chance to bust out last Sunday in honor of James “Teach!” Bathurst’s 40th birthday. Here’s what I drafted:

RB Harness

Creatures (12)
Tormented Hero
Satyr Hoplite
Reckless Reveler
Minotaur Skullcleaver
Felhide Minotaur
Satyr Nyx-Smith
Blood-Toll Harpy
Everflame Eidolon
Anvilwrought Raptor
Abhorrent Overlord

Spells (11)
Flurry of Horns
Cruel Feeding
Magma Jet
Rise to the Challenge
Cast Into Darkness
Read the Bones
Harness by Force
Bolt of Keranos
Fearsome Temper
Lands (17)
10 Mountain

Sideboard (6)
Font of Ire
Cutthroat Manuever
Mogis, God of Slaughter
Returned Phalanx

And here’s a (slightly blurry; apologies) photo, with my sideboard off to the top right:


I went 2-1 with this bad boy, losing to James’ strong RW heroic/bestow deck and beating Werb’s RW deck and Forker’s UG deck (I think). It was honestly great to revisit the format, and I hope I can find others who will help me exhaust those three boxes.

Anyway, why do I remember these triple-set blocks so fondly? As Maro has said, they have often had problems. But I do agree with other stuff Maro has said in the past, too, about the power of “beginning, middle, end.” And there are so many real- and fictional-life analogues to this! Subject, verb, object; setup, confrontation, resolution; past, present, future; verse, chorus, bridge—and so on and so forth. There’s something that’s always been pleasing to me about the symmetry of a completed block—a symmetry I can’t envision when we draft “Blood”/”Blood”/”Sweat” in 2016. (Someone on Twitter, I think, cleverly posited that R&D decided to make this change simply because they ran out of triple-word code names like “Friends,” “Romans,” “Countrymen.”)

Another note: I’ve come to associate blocks with a year, and have kind of come to think of my life (at least in some ways) in terms of them, like a school year. I dunno if I’ll have that same feeling when we move to two-set blocks. Maybe it’ll be more like seasons, or semesters. I dunno. We’ll see!

Long story short, though—and I think the relative lack of outcry in the Magic community reflects this—I trust (paper) Magic R&D pretty implicitly. I think they’ve earned that trust, and until they fuck up consistently and radically for a good long while, I’m inclined to give them a lot of runway to do what they feel is best for the game. I’m looking forward to Khans of Tarkir, and its own unique block format!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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