I was watching Grand Prix Cincinnatti coverage. I got in pretty late, because of reasons, so I started watching from the quarterfinals and since it was very late in Finland, I only watched through semifinals. Besides the only interesting Esper Control game ever (where Brad Nelson had pretty much the greatest comeback of all time), I saw this old guy playing a version of my current deck, which I’ve been calling Suicide King.
Its when I heard his story being told by the coverage team when this became very interesting to me.
Apparently this guy played actively back in the mid-90s around Ice Age. Then life happened and he stopped until just recently returning to the game after seeing his kids play it. I also played actively in the mid-90s, although apparently somewhat longer than Clyde, and I also had an extended absence from the game.
What piqued me was his deck choice. As I mentioned, he was playing pretty much the same deck I am, but with some differences. His top of the curve is a bit higher than mine, but his curve is also weaker as he didn’t play any two drops besides [scryfall]Pain Seer[/scryfall] and instead played a couple of [scryfall]Mogis’s Marauder[/scryfall]s and an more [scryfall]Desecration Demon[/scryfall]s. His mix of removal was also different.
The thing is, this deck doesn’t seem to be on the radar of too many people, so why is it that the two of us play it? Probably because Ice Age had [scryfall]Necropotence[/scryfall] which became the defining card of standard (or Type II in those days) for a while (the Black Summer as its known).
It seems to me that we just have a very different experience with the game the newer players have never had. Of course newer players learn to treat life as a resource, but the extent we did it back in the day was very different. We didn’t care we were killing ourselves as long as we killed the opponent just a little bit faster.
The original [scryfall]Necropotence[/scryfall] deck of around Ice Age (and Homelands) looked like this:
4 Strip Mine
2 Icy Manipulator
1 Ivory Tower
2 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Zuran Orb
4 Black Knight
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
2 Sengir Vampire
1 Ihsan’s Shade
4 Dark Ritual
3 Drain Life
4 Hymn to Tourach
Granted, it isn’t nearly as lethal to yourself as the true Suicide Kings of the late 90s were (one of which I included in the previous article linked to above), but often people would put themselves into a few lifepoints if they were in the play and could [scryfall]Hymn to Tourach[/scryfall] before the opponent, to hopefully get rid of their [scryfall]Necropotence[/scryfall] or [scryfall]Dark Ritual[/scryfall].
Magic wasn’t very good yet. It was definitely interesting, but its also quite understandable why so many of us moved away. Yet, our paradigm of the game still remains. The overall paradigm of the game has since shifted in many directions, but for us that never happened, so we are still looking for the same ingredients we find familiar.
In a way this is a weakness. To be truly good, we need to be able to overcome such prejudices, but on the other hand, our different experience with the game is probably giving us an edge. Our prejudices are so different, other players are not expecting this deck, which they dismiss because of the life costs. To us [scryfall]Pain Seer[/scryfall]s and [scryfall]Herald of Torment[/scryfall]s downsides are just the way we learned to play the game.
Of course, in other situations our prejudices might work against us. After all, this is apparently quite a unique situation for this archetype. Suicide Black just isn’t what it used to be. I’m not sure, but this might be the only time since the late 90s when this is actually a viable archetype and I’m not convinced its really tier one deck, although it seems to be (at least I really, really hope it is, but I also hope to keep it a secret).
One more note: Clyde’s deck didn’t have a great curve. This may have been a function of not playing too long back in the day. Manacurve wasn’t a known metric during Ice Age era, although it became known entity shortly after that with the Sligh deck, which was specifically designed to use all of its mana all the time, even if it did it in a weird way by having nonbos in his deck, such as [scryfall]Dwarven Trader[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Goblins of the Flarg[/scryfall]. It was the first deck of its kind as far as I know, but has since been at least partly a consideration for every deck ever since.