Welcome to this year’s installment of Magic in review. To those unfamiliar with the column, it consists of a look back to the past year’s dearly departed and new arrivals, and important events in the Magic community. Before going on, I’d like to wish all StarCity readers and my fellow writers the best in 2003, whether in Magic or in their personal endeavors.
The Dearly Departed:
Let’s save the fun stuff for last, shall we? No year-end list could be complete without looking back at the people, decks and cards that will no longer grace our conversations and playing areas. Here’s my picks for the”Where are they now?” of the Magic world.
John Friggin’ Rizzo
It all happened so suddenly. We were expecting the results of his Prototypical Magic Player survey (and some of us would still like to know the results) and then, like the tornado Rizzo so often emulated, there was a disturbing calm, a calm left by the departure of Captain Insane-o himself, John Rizzo. All was not lost as he came back with a tournament report – but it was only a tease, not nearly enough to satisfy his ardent and numerous fans. Read it anyway to see why Rizzo had such an impact on all of us.
Goodbye to Fact or Fiction, split cards, Urza’s Rage, Spectral Lynx, and opposite color painlands in Standard. Many bemoaned the loss of such cards as being death for some archetypes, but they didn’t count on the stubbornness and adaptability of Psychatog players (among others) to adjust to the new cards.
Dual-lands, Ice Age Block and Mirage Block leave Extended
There was a lot of complaining and a lot of worrying… But the new Extended looks just fine. Tinker was nowhere to be seen, and the dual-lands found replacements with the Apocalypse painlands, but no one should mistake the format for a slow one. Cards such as Entomb, Vampiric Tutor, Goblin Lackey, Cursed Scroll, and Reanimate are all around to put you on an early clock.
Kurtis“Fat Man” Hahn, creator of 5-Color
Mr. Hahn was banned due to an incident in which he clubbed Mike Dove on the back of the head with a 20 oz. Minute Maid lemonade bottle at Pastimes in Niles, IL. For this, Kurtis got a four–year suspension from Magic. Now, what Kurtis did is inexcusable, but his penalty was quite severe. At last news he was heard saying he would probably quit Magic – and who could blame him?
Is it dead? Not quite… Is it on its way out? Quite likely.
Though to be honest, Apprentice will quite likely always see use in testing; the recent collapse of mtgonline.org, the resurgence of MODO, and the existence of serious bugs in the program that allow you to see all face-down cards show that this program needs some obvious re-working. It’s sad, because Apprentice is one of my favorite programs.
Is he really gone? One thing for sure, his name became less and less prominent across various high-level events as the year progressed. It’s too bad, really, because his Invitational card, Shadowmage Infiltrator, was a lot of fun. I expect to see Finkel’s name pop up occasionally when the Invitational polls start again.
The New Arrivals:
While Magic the Gathering Online isn’t exactly new to the scene, it hit full force in 2002, with many of the Pros adopting it reluctantly, while others took to it like bees to honey. Wizards did their part by having the Magic Invitational played on Modo. Expect larger and larger segments of the Magic community to head over to this elegant and accessible platform.
In the wake of people scrambling to be the next Rizzo, someone came along that had already been writing and had his own bubble of weirdness. On top of it all, he wrote eminently readable articles and did things to parentheses that should never, ever be done again.
Skeptical as I was at first that a site made and maintained by Wizards could be informative and reach to the populace, I was proven wrong rather quickly. The minds at Wizards did a great job, with Randy Bluehler giving us inside looks at R&D with one hand while throwing Green into the Fallen Empires underpowered design mode with an other; Mark Rosewater gives us an irreverent look at card design and social issues around R&D; Anthony Alongi took his Mediterranean charm over to the big leagues, and Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar and Ben Bleiweiss (three former StarCity writers) throw in their weekly grain of salt. Magicthegathering.com hit the motherlode with its You Pick 8th Edition survey, where players the world over got to vote out a card of each color. Boy, I can still hear the cries of anguish of Green mages everywhere when they had to pick between Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves… A very good site, well-designed and informative while remaining fun. Good job, Wizards.
What’s old is new again
Another less heralded change was to the reserved list. Basically, we may now see some commons and uncommons from Alpha make their way back into newer sets. We’ve already seen Clone come back in a beautiful black border, along with Sengir Vampire and Ernham Djinn What’s next? (Sinkhole, Sinkhole, Sinkhole, Sinkhole, Sinkhole!)
Onslaught is easily one my favorite expansions and standalones in a long, long time. I remember going over the spoilers and laughing with my friends as I told them I wanted a binder full of Krosan Colossi by the end of the pre-release, how Trade Secrets seemed subtly broken, and how Mobilization was the best thing since sliced bread. In a way Onslaught, brings Magic back to its roots: To creatures. Not just creatures – but our favorite creature types, like Elves, Zombies, Clerics, Wizards among others (there’s even a Demon for those really old-school types). (And Ferrets – where are the ferrets? – The Ferrett, ferret lover)
And the creatures aren’t just vanilla 2/2s; they’re massive, they do crazy things like tapping to kill anything, tapping to draw three cards, allowing an Overrun ability over and over…Onslaught looks like loads of fun, both in limited and constructed.
Magic Player Rewards
One of the best ideas to come out of Wizards’ think tank in a long time, this program allows player to register and receive creature tokens and premium foil cards dependant on the number of tournaments participated in since registration. It made me start playing again, who can turn down those cool Dragon, Elephant, or Soldier tokens? And the foil Forbid sure is pretty…
Vintage Makes A Comeback
For the first time in a long time, Wizards took a serious look at the Vintage format and the number of requests for increased sanctioning. Mark Rosewater wrote a somewhat flawed article (in that he showed some of the most expensive cards in the format as an example) that explained the problems facing constant Vintage support. On the other hand, there were promises of a Vintage championship and Pat Chapin is working with Wizards, so we can cross our fingers and hope…
Well that’s it for this edition; apologies to those who didn’t make the list and props to those that did. May you always draw a handful of Dark Rituals and Phyrexian Negators!