Premodern: Why Is It Becoming Popular and Where Is It Headed
- Pietro Cavalletti
Premodern is an "old school" balanced format for nostalgic players but is not too expensive nor too limited when it comes to its card pool. Its future will depend on the players that it will attract, as well as the overall support it will get.
Imagine a valley between the old and inaccessible Mountains, Deserts, and Antiquities of the 93/94 Old School format and the noisy and over-developed cities and constructs of the Modern format. Imagine a valley of rivers full of Lotus Vales, an Undiscovered Paradise where strange creatures like Psychatogs, Wild Mongrels, Goblins, and Elves dwell.
With a card pool consisting of all sets between Fourth Edition / Ice Age to Seventh Edition / Scourge, Premodern is an Old School format but without the Power 9, broken singletons, and super expensive cards. It basically includes all cards with the old base card frame printed after 1995, except special editions like from Portal and Anthologies. It has its own Banlist (there are no Limited cards) that include Balance, Brainstorm, Necropotence, Yawgmoth's Will, Entomb and most importantly, Force of Will.
Inspiration and Flavor
Premodern, like 93/94 Old School, is a static format which means no new cards will ever join the format. However, unlike its "rich" brother, Premodern is a more balanced and skill-intensive. It was born to relive old cards and early card designs with one main inspiration: to exclude excessively broken and/or excessively expensive cards, like Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist, except some lands that are played in certain decks, such as Gaea's Cradle and City of Traitors, plus classic must-have artifacts like Mox Diamond and Lion's Eye Diamond. This gives players many possibilities to brew and build a quite a number of decks, allowing everyone to easily play the format without making huge investment commitments.
The result is a nostaligic and iconic format that isn't exclusive. It gives way to inventive deckbuilding and much creativity, since the card pool is wide and the strategies are multiple. This is the real deal of Premodern: Gather the players who love the old designs and mechanics of Magic, the ones who dislike planeswalkers and "white-looking" artifacts, and the ones who don't want to spend thousands of Euros to simply play a semi-amateur format.
Cards, Colors, and Premodern Strategies
Premodern, as a newly relaunched format, does not yet have a consolidated and affirmed metagame but it does have a consistent and acknowledged pool of cards. Just like Legacy and Modern, Premodern is a "4x format" without two of the most powerful tutors (Mystical Tutor and Vampiric Tutor) as well as Demonic Tutor, so decks have to be really homogeneous. However, there's still room for Combo decks, having manabase fixers, like City of Brass and Gemstone Mine and speeders, like Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Lotus Petal. In spite of the possibility to play fetchlands from Onslaught, mana bases are often built around the Ice Age painlands and Invasion taplands. Staples of the format are classic control cards, such as Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, Wrath of God; card drawers, like Accumulated Knowledge and Fact or Fiction; manipulations, like Impulse, Sleight of Hand; tutors, like Intuition and Enlightened Tutor; and efficient creatures, such as Psychatog, Wild Mongrel, and Grim Lavamancer.
I will not flood this article with tons of decklists, variants, and sideboard choices. (You can check this out yourself in the official Premodern website.) What I will try to do, however, is to summarize and introduce you to the best cards matched with the best archetypes, hopefully giving you a better idea on what the format is running and which staples to consider.
In a nutshell, all strategies of every Premodern deck are built around redundancies (3x or 4x) and strong sinergies between cards. The absence of broken cards and powerful singletons allow every game to be contendable, so different strategies are encouraged. This leaves space for rogue decks as well.
|KEY CARDS||Swords to Plowshares, Fact or Fiction, Counterspell, Wrath of God, Absorb, Standstill, Decree of Justice||Psychatog, Time Warp, Horn of Greed, Gush, Exploration||Illusion of Grandeur, Donate, Cadaverous Bloom, Prosperity, Yawgmoth's Bargain, Tendrils of Agony||Price of Progress, Fireblast, Lightning Bolt, Cursed Scroll, Jackal Pup||Wild Mongrel, Circular Logic, Werebear, Mother of Runes, Counterspell, Swords to Plowshares||Goblin Lackey, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Warchief, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Gaea's Cradle|
|COLORS||UW / UWB / UWBG||UB / UBG||U/ UBG / UB||R / RG||UW / UG||R, G|
|STRATEGY||taking and keeping control of the board with removals and counterspells then closing the game||accumulating resources and board/card advantage until the opponent has to concede to your threats||just like in any other format... finding a way to put all the pieces of the combo in play and win the game!||inflicting direct damage to the opponent without caring about the board state and card advantage||using cheap and effective creatures surrounded by control elements and removals||monocolored decks built around the raw power and the interaction of tribes, such as Goblin and Elves|
No much (yet) have been shown and revealed in tournaments. The first two relevant events were the Swedish Premodern Championship, held in June with 18 players attending, and the Italian Premodern National Championship, held in Massa last August with 24 players attending. These have been the biggest Premodern events held so far.
The two metagames were slightly different. The Swedish one was more Combo/Control-oriented with two Enchantress decks (both in the Top 8 and one winning), two Bargain decks, one Pande-Burst, and one Trix. The Italian event, on the other hand, had Control and Aggro as the main and successful archetypes with three UW Landstill decks (two in the Top 8 and one winning), four Sligh decks (two in the Top 8), and three "The Rock" decks (two in the Top 8).
Below are the decklists of the two winners.
|Swedish Premodern Championship - Jonas Lefvert, 1st Place|
|4Brushland||4Argothian Enchantress||4Elephant Grass||3Lotus Petal|
|8Forest||4Enchantress's Presence||1Tsabo's Web|
|3Serra's Sanctum||2Mirri's Guile||2Replenish|
|2Seal of Cleansing|
|1Aura of Silence||2Carpet of Flowers||1Choke||1Circle of Protection: Black|
|1Circle of Protection: Red||1City of Solitude||1Hidden Gibbons||1Seal of Cleansing|
|1Solitary Confinement||2Swords to Plowshares||1Tsabo's Web||1Verduran Enchantress|
|Italian Premodern Championship - Stefano Mannella, 1st Place|
|26Lands||29Instants and Sorceries||5Other Spells|
|1Coastal Tower||3Counterspell||1Powder Keg|
|4Flooded Strand||1Dismantling Blow|
|5Island||3Fact or Fiction|
|4Swords to Plowshares|
|3Decree of Justice|
|3Wrath of God|
|1Aura of Silence||1Blue Elemental Blast||2Circle of Protection: Red|
|1Humility||4Hydroblast||1Light of Day|
With much variety, Premodern has a long way to go in defining the dominating deck. The format seems well-balanced at the moment with Yawgmoth's Bargain as the only card on "the edge" of the watchlist.
Perspectives and Conclusions
Premodern has definitely brought nostalgic and long-time players a new and interesting perspective on Magic play without having to invest thousands of Euro in an almost "for fun" format. (Although the breath of card choices and deck constructions allows the format competitive play as well.) The variety of decks and the absence of broken cards (the Power 9 above all) brings the format closer to Legacy than Vintage or Old School. However, the vintage and static components of Premodern bring it closer to the spirit of 93/94 than of any other Magic format.
To be objective, I will now summarize the differences between the main Eternal formats. I'll let you decide which one(s) you like the most.
Here are the main differences and instances to consider:
|Environment||Competitive||Casual||Casual to Competitive||Casual|
|Cost for Playing||Medium to High||Low||High||High|
|Community of Players||High||Restricted||Low||Restricted|
|Brokeness||Low to Medium||Low to Medium||High||Medium to High|
|Skill Intensity||High||Medium to High||Low to Medium||Medium|
|Support & Tournaments||High||Low||Low||Low|
|Fun Component||Low to Medium||High||Medium||High|
|Nostalgia Component||Low||Medium to High||Medium to High||High|
I think that Premodern occupies an interesting and previously empty space in the Eternal endeavors. Furthermore, despite not being an official Wizards of the Coast format, Premodern is becoming more and more established – It has its own website and even a community on Facebook.
So… do you wanna ride aboard the Premodern train?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.