Hello! My name is Greg. Some of you may know me better as the guy who runs the @oldschoolmtg Instagram account. I’ve been meaning to try and write an article for “The Blog" for several years now; discovering The Blog back in 2014 was what reignited my love for this great game. In chatting with MG a while back we discussed me writing a post about one of my favorite aspects of early Magic, which has been absent since Homelands in 1996, a mechanic lost to the annals time - of course I'm talking about ante.
|The most taboo of all Old School cards|
In the mid-90's Magic: The Gathering really was the overprotective parent's worst nightmare. Not only did it teach their precious snowflakes to worship Satan via cards like Demonic Tutor, Unholy Strength, and Sacrifice, but it turned them into degenerate gamblers as well - because Magic was originally played for keeps.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the mechanics of ante in Dominaria - at the start of each game, after shuffling, each player flipped over the top card of their deck and set it aside. The winner of the game won all anted cards. Won as in they became the new owner. This is why early cards like Control Magic and Aladdin specified you gave cards back at the end of game. While those effects were temporary, ante was for forever.
Originally Garfield and company didn’t quite anticipate how players would buy and play the game. They thought players would buy a starter deck or two and hopefully a few booster packs. Their original vision didn’t include the “4 of” playset rule as they didn’t think players would have that many copies of any particular card. Ante was also meant to aid this. Once a player had their 100, 200, or *maybe* 300 cards they’d play at shops and against friends for ante. Winning and losing cards would keep the cards rotating throughout play groups, thus an ever evolving set of cards in your community. Fortunately for WotC's wallets players bought every wax pack in sight, but unfortunately for ante the game’s success was partially responsible for it’s demise. With certain cards becoming rather pricey players didn’t want to risk losing their hard earned Shivans and Serras.
Ante was represented on cards in the original printing only in the color black. There were 3 black ante cards in the Alpha printing of Magic: Contract from Below, Darkpact, and Demonic Attorney. Contract from Below isn’t as infamous as Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall due to it being tied to ante, but it is hands down the most powerful card every printed. It’s like the evil love child of Ancestral Recall and Wheel of Fortune, letting you draw a new hand of 7 for a single black mana… that is insane. Sure you have to ante an additional card, but let’s be honest, you just drew 7 cards for 1 mana, you’re going to win this game. Darkpact was also a semi well known card as it was included in perhaps the most annoying deck every created, nothing but Darkpacts & Swamps. Dark pact reads "You own target card in the ante. Exchange that card with the top card of your library.”, so you basically just end up losing the game and probably a Swamp, but if you are able to cast a Darkpact you get to essentially trade your opponent a Swamp for whatever they anted - pretty dirty and cheesy, especially if they flip over a spicy rare. Demonic Attorney said each player had to ante an additional card unless your opponent conceded the game immediately. Based on the timing when casting Demonic Attorney it could strong arm your opponent into giving up on their original ante to prevent possibly losing a second card.
|The evil color had all the gambling cards of course.|
|The rest. White and Blue were never blessed with any ante related cards.|
I’ve been kicking around an idea for a tournament variation that keeps the ante aspect of the (very) early game we all love: “Tempor-Ante” (as in Temporary Ante). I’ve laid out what I brewed up as the rules for this variant and I’d like to share that here.
- Normal 60 card minimum deck to start the tournament (may drop below 60 cards later)
- Standard 15 card (optional sideboard)
- Players must bring a stack of blank cards for proxies (cardstock, acetone wiped cards, basic lands, or standard poker cards all work great) and extra sleeves to match their deck.
- All ante cards are legal.
- Normal restricted list (Contract from Below & Darkpact are currently restricted at the time of this writing).
- Before each game, each player antes a random card from their deck. Ante is drawn after any sideboarding and shuffling.
- Cards lost due to ante are removed from the player's deck for the remainder of the tournament.
- Winner of each game MUST add all ante cards he/she anted back to their deck. For each card won from their opponent that player adds a proxy of that card to their deck (non-optional, all won cards are played with). Use proxies so that ownership is not permanent and you don't need to keep track of cards (lost cards are kept in your possession, just not in your deck).
- Won cards are not subject to deck construction rules. You may end up with more than 4 copies of a card or multiple copies of a restricted card based on wins.
- Whenever you lose a card (any type) to ante, you may replace that card with a Basic Land if you wish. This is optional and just meant to keep decks from getting permanently mana screwed by losing cards.
- Players should do their best to recreate the card won on their proxy because most people can’t draw worth a damn and you should be forced to play your artistic atrocity.
- You can play with Contract from Below, the most powerful card every printed, as it was intended to be used.
- Decks will need to be constructed in a manner that they can afford to lose a handful of cards. This should lead to some creative decks without having only 1-2 win conditions or fragile combos. If you lose all of your win conditions, you’re done - you’ll need backup plans.
- Multi colored decks and cards like City of Brass/Birds of Paradise/Celestial Prism will be encouraged as you may win cards outside of your initial colors and you won’t want dead draws.
- If luck is on your side you could end up playing a deck with a playset of Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall.
- Fun between round banter and speculation about who has won/lost what and what it’ll mean in future rounds.
- You get to play for friggin’ ante!!
- You of course could lose cards to make your deck incapable of victory, but hey sometimes a dose of randomness is fun!
|True high quality proxies are made with Sharpie; none of that "black core", bend test passing, U.V. light glowing, counterfeit eBay bullshit.|
Thanks everyone for lending me your ear and hopefully I’ll see you back over on Instagram.
- Greg T.