"The Dark Block" sealed deck: What the hell is that?
I made up a stupid Magic format, it was every bit as terrible as I'd hoped, and I want to tell you about it.
For most of its history, Magic: The Gathering sets were printed in "blocks" of 2-3 that were thematically related. This started in 1996 and continued until early 2018. Before blocks started*, there were 6 early expansion sets that were all extremely ad hoc (by today's standards) as they were put together very hastily. What's interesting about them is that while they are all extremely uneven power-wise, it's generally agreed the first 3 contained many truly powerful cards (especially for the time) and the latter 3 were a true low point for Magic set design.
Sealed packs of those first three sets (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Legends) are extremely rare and expensive. Sealed packs of those other three sets (The Dark, Fallen Empires, Homelands)... not so much.
[*Nerd note: I am glossing over the Ice Age retcon shenanigans by just calling that the first block.]
Anything from the first decade of Magic is gonna play really badly in limited (sealed or draft) formats because it wasn't really designed for that. Let alone trying it with the 3 worst consecutive sets in Magic history, that aren't even mechanically related.
So of course I really, really wanted to try it.
I decided to create a "The Dark Block" sealed deck game using The Dark, Fallen Empires, and Homelands. All three sets have a post-apocalyptic flavor to them. The Dark & Fallen Empires explore the after effects of a global war, while Homelands explores a community that's created a home in a wasteland. It's some epic on-point flavor for the worst sets and it ties the whole thing together almost poetically. It's "The Dark Block" in more ways than one.
A few more things to keep in mind about these sets:
- All of these sets came in 8-card boosters, which was the norm for expansions until Ice Age and Mirage changed it to 15. So to hit a similar card count as modern sealed (six 15-card boosters), we'll need 12 boosters a piece.
- There isn't a rare slot per se in these older sets, there's just different levels of uncommon. So we can't even count on these boosters having even rarity distribution.
- The rules system has been overhauled twice since these cards were printed.
- All of these sets are gravely underpowered across the board and have absolutely terrible mana fixing and removal options.
I decided to really go all-in and double up on Homelands, probably the worst-designed of these badly designed sets. It has a special nostalgic place in my heart, and it felt like throwing a little more gas on the fire. So we'd each get:
- 3 packs of The Dark
- 3 packs of Fallen Empires
- 6 pack of Homelands
Soon it would be time for a truly dark game of Magic.