Now I have to admit to you all that my memory for dates is not that great. One interesting exercise I’ve had to undertake when writing this blog was reconstructing which tournaments/events happened in which order. For instance, I was about to write about the first time I saw Zuran Orb in action in yesterday’s blog – but Ice Age hadn’t been released until way after I was banned from Steven and Keith’s tournaments! Likewise, it’s weird looking at just how quickly sets were released back in the day:
Arabian Nights: December, 1993
Unlimited: January, 1994
Antiquities: March 1994
Revised: April 1994
Legends: June 1994
The Dark: August 1994
Fallen Empires: November 1994
That was seven sets in twelve months! Imagine if sets were released faster than every other month in the modern era – people would have quit the game in droves due to their inability to keep up with the cards! This is why you might hear people complaining that sets are released too often; it’s also an ancient complaint, and one that doesn’t really apply to modern Magic. The three-sets-a-year started with Mirage (with a base set thrown in every now and then) and has been a good model ever since.
This has absolutely nothing to do with today’s story, except that it takes place in November of 1994. It was time for Steve and Keith’s tournament, and I had just won the past two in a row. This time I came with a Red/Green aggressive deck, packed with Argothian Pixies, Kird Ape, Erhnam Djinn, Lightning Bolt, Crumble, Shatter, and other goodies of this sort. I felt confident in my chances of winning this tournament, and taking home my third Mox in a row. Maybe I would go for the Ruby this time, to replace the one that was getting pretty worn in my decks. Maybe I’d go for the Sapphire, which had the highest trade value…
Maybe the prize would be changed to a box of the hot new expansion set, Fallen Empires.
Steve thought that making the top prize a box of Fallen was a great idea, but several factors worked against this idea – in fact, 102 factors worked against this idea. These 102 problems were the actual cards in the Fallen Empires set, which many of us had picked up earlier in the week. With sixty packs to the box, eight cards to the pack, and only 102 unique cards in the set, we already had gotten a dozen of each common (multiple pictures) a piece at Tulane. Moreover, we weren’t particularly impressed with the cards. Neil went for Goblin Grenade, while Anthony went for Hymn to Tourach. I liked Icatian Javelineers and Hand of Justice, but none of the cards really struck me as amazing.
I ended up getting paired against Chris Wong again, except this time in the fifth round. We both had one loss in this double elimination format, and he was running a White/Blue control deck this time around. I won the first game and he took the second, which lead up to game three. I took an early jump with Mishra’s Factory and creature pressure, but he quickly battled back with Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God. I took him down to only twelve life within the first few turns, but he finally stabilized the board and dropped Serendib Djinn. The Djinn quickly took five point chunks out of my life total, and Chris kept sacrificing Plains after Plains to the huge flyer. I had one ace in the hole: I knew how Chris played the game of Magic.
Chris Wong was a very conservative player, and didn’t like to take risks – this is why he always picked a reliable deck from the month before that had performed well, and did not make his own decks. The life totals were 12-10 in his favor, but he was running out of lands. His board was three Islands and two Plains, and we were entering his upkeep. I had literally nothing on the board but lands, and Chris had been telegraphing a Counterspell from a mile away. I knew exactly how this turn would end. Chris sacrificed an Island, because he wanted to have the mana to cast Wrath of God. This brought him down to nine. He attacked me for five, and passed the turn to me.
I smiled as I drew my card. It didn’t matter what else I drew, I had won the game. On my first main phase, I played Strip Mine and stripped one of this two remaining Islands. The color drained from his face entirely. He slumped over on the table in thought.”Float one Blue,” he offered feebly, knowing it would do him no good.”Okay, enter my attack phase.””I burn for one (8-5).” On my next main phase, I cast the three cards I had been holding in my hand: Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Chain Lightning. That did it for Chris.
I swear from that day onward, Chris lost all fighting spirit against me. What makes this play especially memorable for me was that it was the first time I really intuited the next few turns of my opponent’s play. I knew exactly how the game was going to go down, and it followed my script and plan.
I went on the win the tournament, and with the glory of victory came the spoils of war: A brand spankin’ new box of Fallen Empires. Steve also pulled me aside after I won, to have a little chat.”Ben,”, he started.”You know that I like you, but a lot of people are saying they don’t want to keep coming because you keep winning. You can’t play in these tournaments anymore.” Sigh.”But,” he continued,”I want you to be our judge for the next one. I’ll pay you $50 to judge the tournament, so you’ll still be making something.”
Thus ended my career as the king of Steve and Keith’s 5 Mox & a Lotus …. No, make that a Mox… Oh hell. I won this tournament, the day after my 19th birthday, to become a Teenage Fallen Empires Box Winner.
Ben can be reached at [email protected].