“Do you know how to play magic, too? Did he teach you how to play?”

That’s Roland, chatting up my girlfriend. Most of my buddies ask me or Kate whether she has learned to play. But I butt in.

“No way. She wants nothing to do with it.”

We all laugh. I tell her whats going on here, why we all are even bothering to play with cards released only between 1993 and 1995, and hold a tournament in honor of the olde times. And Roland chimes in.

“It’s like this: you get to play with all the cards you couldn’t afford as a kid. Except now, you never have the time to play with them.”

Justin burst forth, announcing that pairings for round two are going up, and who gets to saddle up to the feature match. We break for our opponents and take our seats.


I have a giant hole inside me that can only be filled by old school magic cards. You know, old border. Old power levels. A more or less motley mixture of bad creatures and overpowered spells. Crazy artifacts and enchantments that dominate the board and are win conditions in of themselves. When I first met Evan, we were sitting around a noodle joint well after midnight talking about Harold McNeill art on some Saturday of last year. The other guys there, they hung around. But they didn’t hit the level Evan and I hit as we went back. Back to Sylvan Library, back to Invoke Prejudice.

We began by playing Legacy together, his decks all cards and mine all indecipherable proxies BIC’d on the backs of junk commons from Theros. We listened to punk and metal and grunge as we played, sometimes well into the night and always over my shitty, cheap kitchen table and folding wooden chairs. Soon he had built a cube and he worked on it incessantly, pairing it down and asking me to play it. We’d winston for hours while drinking beer and playing records at his place. Sometimes his Mallory would come home while we were drafting or in the middle of a game.

“Hey, whats the best planeswalker ever printed?”

“Jace the Mind Sculptor.” She’d say and wince from a good swig of cold beer.

“And whats the most metal art ever on a Magic card?”

“Uh, thats — uh, Surgical Extraction.”

And then we’d go back to flicking our cards and to thinking hard about the game beneath us.

Soon the cube was all but worked out and he and I and Justin and a few other guys got together and drafted it, and sometimes we drafted it all day instead of an Eternal Cube. It was sometime soon after all this that Evan approached me with the 1995 format.


So these swedish guys have a league that plays 1994 constructed and they have a seriously informative website maintained. You can check it out here. Evan, with me huddled over a game of Shandalar, shows me images of decklists like this one.


Not only was it a wildly different format, it was an aesthetic statement about the beauty and sentiment of old magic. He wanted to start building some of these decks and testing them against each other. It wasn’t soon after this the guys were bringing their 1994 brews to our cube drafts and legacy testing, and it wasn’t much later when guys like Justin and Evan were talking about doing a tournament. It took some time to put together, but as we approached Evan’s birthday last year we finally had a good enough reason to get into costume and make the tournament a reality.

We had elevated the rules by extending the legal sets to Ice Age, ensuring the larger card pool would infuse the format with more choices for competitive deck.I played mono-black with 12 knights and went 2-2 and there were about 12 of us in total.

In the wake of Evans birthday LandLotusJuzam.net was formed. Go on, check it out. The guys really put something special together. It’s a digital time warp back to the days of Brainburst and The Dojo. For anyone old enough to remember these archaic magic websites of the 90s, Land Lotus Juzam can give a good tug on the old heart strings.

So last weekend, on Saturday night, we held the 1995 Conference of Professionals. It was exponentially greater than our first tournament: in anticipation, preparation, and final turnout. Many of us dressed in period costumes: jackets and boots and bandanas that harkened back to that Ice Age promo video and old photographs of tournament magic. We cranked 90’s rock over the speaker system, and there we were… just over 20 of us, each set out to win the Juzam Djinn, and along with it, the glory of achieving the title of grand champion duelist.


This is what I played.

Blue Flame

Creatures (5)
Serendib Efreet
Ball Lightning

Spells (26)
Lightning Bolt
Chain Lightning
Psionic Blast
Power Sink
Mana Drain
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Wheel Of Fortune

Artifact (5)
Black Lotus
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Black Vise
Sol Ring

Enchantment (3)
Energy Flux
Blood Moon

Land (21)
Volcanic Island
Library of Alexandria
Strip Mine
Mishra’s Factory
Sideboard (15)
Red Elemental Blast
Blood Moon
Control Magic
Maze of Ith

We played four rounds of swiss. Here’s a short recap of my matches.


So these guys came up from Philly with a crazy philly combo deck: Using Lich and Dark Heart of the Wood and Fastbond to draw their deck and kill you with Mirror Universe. It was awesome and I was excited to be playing against him. He won game one by Mind Twisting me, then casting Timetwister and Mind Twisting me again, then hymning my hand into the graveyard. I sat around and waited to die game one, but sideboarded and got away with the next two games on the back of his Glacial Chasm and a timely Counterspell on his Demonic Tutor.


Alaric spent a good deal of time on his deck, and it showed. I was easily playing my worst matchup in the room. My list had so many dead cards against him, and his deck was packed with must answer threats like Ernham Djinn and Force of Nature. I knew I was in trouble when he double Spirit Linked my Serendib Efreet game one. Even my sideboard was no help to me, and I found myself sitting on my palms with my face while he played a deck beautifully meta’d to beat decks like mine. I wished him well.

Kate happened to be watching this match, which was unfortunate. I didn’t want her to see me lose, considering how rarely she makes any effort to pay attention to my game.


Ah, a fellow TDLer! Pena was on Justin’s zoo deck, chock full of Centaur Archers and Ernham Djinns and Fireballs. He destroyed me, but it took three games. Armageddon is a serious fucking magic card.


Dana was on a more prison-style burn deck. She had crazy cards like Power Surge to disrupt you and Mana Clash for fun, coin flip-based damage. Our matchup was blindingly fast, but my deck was able to out-burn her decisively after sideboarding.

My overall record was 2-2, and I needed 3-1 to make the top 4.

Roland took down the whole thing, beating Alaric in the finals with his UB midrange deck. He had four Juzam Djinns in his maindeck, which allowed him to win his fifth. It seemed fitting that the arguably most popular old school Magic creature won the tournament and was the first prize. I finished somewhere in the top 10 and won a Beta Disenchant.

There is something beautifully nostalgic that happens when we all get together to play this format. Like Roland said, we get to finally play with the cards we couldn’t afford as kids. It has become that important to us, that we can all celebrate an outlet where we are able to cast our Djinns and our Fireballs, important enough that we are each creating and supporting an idea, and realizing that idea with these tournaments. It’s a choice of aesthetics, a mood an atmosphere that feeds us just as the cards had fed us and, as is obvious by this weekend, continues to inform us and our love for the game.

I believe without Evan none of this would ever have happened, and for him we are grateful. He knew how important it was to both of us to continue playing with our favorite cards, and what it would take to make it all possible. So thank you, Evan, and to Justin, for getting us all together. And to the community of 1995 players, for supporting this indulgent and crazy fun format.

Kate had left right after my brutal defeat in round two, and after the tournament I made immediately for her apartment deeper into Williamsburg. I am at the time in my life where I have her, and I have my cards and my job and my busy-ass New York City life. I am lucky to count Magic among these things. Now, if I only had the time enough to play.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. 


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