(Note : Since this article deals with lots of the images from the first set of the game, Alpha, you may find it useful to have a visual reference of the set at your disposal. Although there are a few original pieces of artwork missing, you could do a lot worse than open this link in a separate window. Enjoy.)
It’s taken me fifteen articles, but at last I’ve got in a gratuitous reference to the best sci-fi show ever, Space: 1999. But if we go back another six years, to August 1993, there was another Space — the gap in the market where Magic: The Gathering was about to hit, tearing the moon out of Earth’s orbit….
See, for those of you without calendars, it’s August, and this is what bunches of people think about Magic in the dog days of Summer:
Article Topic: Time Spiral Block Constructed.
Responses include: “Boring.” “I’ve already qualified for Valencia.” “I’m not going to any more PTQs.” “Firenze isn’t for another month.” “Are they still talking about Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir?”
Article Topic: Time Spiral Draft
Responses include: “Boring.” “I’m saving my money for Lorwyn.” “Everyone already knows G/W is the best.”
Article Topic: Extended.
Responses include: “Boring.” “ But Worlds isn’t for nearly six months.” “I don’t own all the cards for Extended. Especially online.”
Article Topic: Standard
Responses include: “Boring.” “But Worlds isn’t for nearly six months.” “Where are all the Tier 1 decks?”
Article Topic: Legacy
Responses include: “Boring.” “But Worlds isn’t for nearly six months, and we’re all playing Goblins anyway.”
I believe that more or less covers the apathy and torpor that steals over the game at this time of year. So I feel it is my bounden duty to write for you an article that will require of you a different brand of indifference. That’s right, this week we go right back to where it all started, and cast a thoroughly sideways look over everything that is Alpha. In particular, we’ll be turning the spotlight on aspects of the game that rarely get a look-in, like the characters, the artwork, the flavor text, the places, rules text, and an altogether Removed From Game approach that may find you struggling to work out which bits, exactly, you don’t care about, because you could be on a beach somewhere instead. Into the time machine then, and we start with:
Animate Wall — welcome to the world of narrow. Just in case you thought this guy was going to be any good, they even printed on the card that the wall you animate still has zero power if it had, er, zero power. And I was expecting my Stone Wall to turn into a Spectral Force.
Armageddon — the first (alphabetically speaking) piece of truly iconic Magic art, by Jesper Myrfors. Whatever happened here, you wouldn’t have wanted to be there. It’s a scary, scary place.
Benalish Hero — It’s our first glimpse of cleavage, and just like the rest of her, it’s pretty severe. This is not a woman with whom to mess. Very definitely a white Grace Jones, and if you disagree, just look at those pursed lips.
Blaze of Glory — My favorite cards in Future Sight are, in no particular order: Fomori Nomad, Nessian Courser, Blind Phantasm, Blade Of The Sixth Pride, Mass Of Ghouls. I think you know the rules text on that lot. Guess how much I like Blaze of Glory…
“Target defending creature can and must block all attacking creatures it can legally block. For example, a normal non-flying target defender can and must block all normal non-flying attackers at once, but it cannot block any flying attackers. Controller of target defender may distribute damage among attackers as desired. Play before defense is chosen.”
Ah, me… Magic was such a simple game back then.
Castle — why is it that castles always seem such noble places? They were usually the seat of power for extremely unpleasant nobles in a feudal world where the downtrodden really were trodden. They’re the first place an opposing army turns up to batter into nothingness, and if they can’t manage that, they sit around outside playing backgammon (the army game of choice pre-Magic) until everybody inside the castle walls dies of disease or starvation or both. Plus, as everyone knows (or should know), every castle in the known universe has a little hidden culvert round the back that is the true weakness. Which begs the question, why do armies spend so much time banging on the front door? And, more importantly, when you look at the castle in Castle, why do spirits start to soar? Weird.
Circles of Protection: Blue, Green, Red, White… something’s missing. Try again. White, Blue, Red, Green, er… oh, it’s Black. That’s right, they forgot the fifth one. Well, I guess that’s one of the reasons they tried again with Beta. Now just imagine what MTGO Version 3 Alpha would have looked like…
Crusade — a card that’s been recast a thousand times, this is the original auto-pump card, and it was a beating. Having reached 8-0 with my White Weenie deck at UK Regionals one year, I found myself facing an extremely tedious Gerrard’s Wisdom/Gaea’s Blessing deck, which meant I had a lot of time on my hands. Naturally, I improved the shining hour by counting the visible knights on Crusade, knowing that the time would come when this information needed to be shared. It’s twenty-five.
Disenchant — Before you look at the picture, think for a moment. What is the art for this? I must confess, I’d never spotted the dragon/cockatrice design in the middle until now. I thought it was just a circle thingy. Meanwhile, judges around the world, prepare to shudder. “Target enchantment or artifact must be discarded.” But judge, how can I discard it when it isn’t even in my hand…?
Farmstead — this is the first location in the Magic world that I’d actually like to visit in real life. But what is it that defines homeliness, warmth, safety, as this picture clearly does? The thatch on the roof is part of a dream house for many people, but for me the clincher that would make me buy this place is the round window set into the front door. Very Bag End. Gorgeous.
Karma — it took me a long time to figure out what was going on here. The picture basically looks like a slug out of Alice in Wonderland. Of course, the figure kind of changed shape for me once I turned the card upside down, which I guess makes the figure a Karma Chameleon. Sorry. And while you’re busy trying to recuperate from that hideousness, remember that Karma was the definitive kicking for Swamp-lovers, from a time when the term “hoser” really did what it said on the tin.
Lance — and it is.
Northern Paladin — now this guy is hard. Rock hard. From the beetle black eyebrows, through the Roman nose, probably broken a few times in wars gone by, down to a sinew-packed neck that could probably kill you on its own, this is probably the scariest knight in the whole of Magic.
Reverse Damage — there’s a serious Sarah Brightman thing going on here. I’m sorry dear, but that lipstick is far too red for your pasty-white complexion. And yet, astonishingly, just five minutes after this shot was taken, the model was doing a TV advert for L’Oreal Elvive, because she was worth it, apparently.
Righteousness — How I hate this card. It’s the most miserable rare you can ever open in a core set booster. You can accurately gauge how hideous your Sealed pool is by the likelihood of having to play this waste of paper. As for the art, Douglas Schuler has managed to bring us new kinds of feminine ugly. This card needs flavor text: “Now I could run you through with my sword, or I could kiss you.” “I’ll take the sword.”
Savannah Lions — parting is such sweet sorrow. There’s something so elegant about the turn 1 play that sees the lions pound into the arena. Even the strictly better Isamaru, Hound of Konda will never be as loved. But although it’s sad to see them vanish from 10th, we can look forward with confidence to the future, when the hype will be all about the 2/1 for W, back in 12th. I can’t wait.
Serra Angel — there are many things for which you turn to StarCityGames.com. Proof of the existence of God is probably not one of them, yet that is what I bring you. I’ve explored every other possible explanation, but there is no way that corset stays on by any natural, scientific or technological means, and that leaves divine intervention. To “why does God allow suffering?” is now added the burning theological question, “how does God keep Serra Angel’s corset in one place?”
Swords to Plowshares — I often wonder. Hang on. No I don’t. I have occasionally found myself musing on where artists get their inspiration for Magic cards. Mothers, siblings, girlfriends, tramps in the street, or just out of their imaginations? Take Swords to Plowshares for example. I don’t know where artist Jeff A. Menges comes from, but if he knows former English champion John Ormerod, we have a winner.
Veteran Bodyguard — speaking of artistic inspiration, it isn’t hard to see who this bad boy was modelled on. Step forward the muscles from Brussels, Jean Claude van Damme.
White Knight — such an elegant card in every way. Mirrored by Black, it’s a superb card that, curiously, wouldn’t necessarily make it into a Time Spiral Block Deck. And people say that Magic has had all the power taken out of it.
Wrath of God — I must be blind. Until I started this article, I had never seen the face of God at the top of the picture. It’s a good job breathing is automatic, or I might be in trouble.
Ancestral Recall — I guess it’s from the three wise monkeys (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil), but anytime I see someone covering their ears it seems inherently funny. I suspect what’s actually going on is that the poor bloke is hearing strange voices in his head. For the two people who have almost climbed to the top of the tower, they better hope it’s that, otherwise there’s a bomb just about to go off. Or, in a slightly less plausible scenario, the guy’s just completed the two-hour hike back down to ground level, and the artist has perfectly captured the moment when the bearded one realises that he’s left his car keys up top.
Counterspell — the most perfect card in the history of the game. Unconditional, clean, perfectly formed, and artwork spelled “huh?” A thing of beauty, let’s not ever pretend that Cancel is a similar beast.
Drain Power — another famous model, this is clearly based on a 1972 rock concert starring Gary Glitter. Come on, that collar practically screams “look at me.”
Lord Of Atlantis — another elegant piece of design, for many people merfolk was the way in to the idea of Tribal decks. Cast a Merfolk Of The Pearl Trident turn 1. He’s not very good, and he has some serious 1980’s hair issues. Turn 2, he’s a beating. Thanks, Fish Lord, or whatever your creature type was back then.
Phantasmal Forces — this is the only “Japanese” card in the set, as it simply reeks of Battle Of The Planets, a Japanese cartoon that had incredible amounts of violence in it. This resulted in it being comprehensively edited to pieces when it was shown in the UK and U.S. to delicately-constitutioned children. Still a great piece of art, though.
Prodigal Sorcerer — We’ll get the sideburns issue out of the way at the start, and now we can concentrate on the card. For hundreds of thousands of players, this was the card that ushered in a world of complexity. This wasn’t just an Activated Ability. This was an Activated Ability that you could play almost any time, including — gasp — at the end of your opponent’s turn. This was the card that enabled you to learn the phrase “e.o.t.” and as such it’s one of the most popular and enduring cards in the game. Sadly, Prodigal Pyromancer is not the same. Yes, I know it’s the same. But it’s not the same.
Psionic Blast — if ever there was a card from Ago that appeared Now to incredible hype, it was this. When players saw that Blue was about to get Char, message boards went nuts. But we should have known better. Just like Erhnam Djinn and Serra Angel before it, the poster boy for “look who’s back” was never likely to trouble the scorers at high-level tables, despite determined attempts to make it fit somewhere. Meanwhile, this is another card that badly wants some flavor text: “Arthur, did you leave Bouncer in the microwave…?”
Psychic Venom — I used to have a hideous phobia about snakes. Thankfully not so much now. If I had played Magic when I was a kid, I couldn’t have booster drafted, for fear of seeing one of these. That snake is properly terrifying to someone with a phobia. I mean, really, this is the stuff of sweating nightmares. Good job, Brian Snoddy.
Stasis — here’s a good party game. You give someone a card, and they have to describe the artwork to their team-mates. The goal is to correctly identify as many cards as possible in a two-minute period. Everyone gets a go at being the “on the spot” guy or gal, and, as non-Magic Magic entertainment goes, this seems to get people going. Now what on Earth is going on in Stasis? Perhaps I’m missing something, but it looks to me approximately like this: There’s a seesaw with two figures on it. The one on the left is all in white, like a pierrette, with one arm up in the air and the other pointing down. On the right is a figure kneeling down, wearing a Nine And A Half Weeks Kim Basinger blindfold. It’s got a face like a jackal or a wolf, and it might be some kind of Egyptian God figure like Anubis or something. Between them there’s a pink artist palette, and it looks as if the white figure on the left is throwing up some pale blue stuff.” Who knows? Perhaps this was exactly the instruction artist Fay Jones received from Wizards for the card. Perhaps not.
Time Walk — my wife wants me to go to Weightwatchers, but look what happened to these two, after only six weeks….
Vesuvan Doppelganger — oh boy, here comes another rules spectacular. “Upon summoning, Doppelganger acquires all normal characteristics (except color) of any one creature in play on either side; any enchantments on the original creature are not copied. During controller’s upkeep, Doppelganger may take on the characteristics of a different creature in play instead. Doppelganger may continue to copy a creature even after that creature leaves play, but if it switches it won’t be able to switch back.” Glad that’s all cleared up.
Wall of…. — when Magic started, men were men and Walls were Walls. The Great Wall of China, that’s the kind of Wall that hangs out in Alpha. Look at Wall of Air. For three mana, it holds off Air Elemental all day, and puts all one-toughness flyers in the bin. As for Wall of Swords, it kills almost anything in the air. As for Wall Of Fire and Wall Of Stone, nothing but nothing was getting through on the ground. These days, the most likely candidates for Defender action are Wall of Paperwork and Garden Wall, both likely to be 0/1 for 4 mana, with an ability that allows them to return themselves to owner’s hand on alternate Tuesdays. Having said that, Wall of Swords is back in 10th, and personally, I reckon it’s the clear winner in the Best New Art category. Awesome.
Bad Moon — what is it with me and faces? I didn’t spot the face in the moon on this one either. A lot of people would like the answer to the question, “How do I get Rich Hagon to shut up?” Well, you know those books of optical illusions — Magic Eye, I think they’re called — where you stare at the page and let your eyes go all sort of fuzzy and then a picture of the Titanic swims into view? I’ve never seen anything in one of these, and will sit in abject silence until Hell freezes over trying to do so. BDM, now you know.
Black Knight — White Knight, fabulous. Black Knight, not. But then I’m all about courage, loyalty, honor, peace…
Demonic Attorney — This is a strange one. First up, it’s like a cartoon. Second, it’s so blatantly Victorian. Or possibly even Regency. (Victorian and Regency only being separated by a few hundred years.) I can’t think of a piece of art that sticks out so strongly as “not belonging” in the Multiverse.
Drain Life — hello, Sailor. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that this is the card that would go on to win a Pro Tour final match by not being in the deck at all (Mike Long sideboarding all of them out against Mark Justice, a technique not generally recommended). Instead, let’s pause for reflection and consider the 100% camp outfit this guy is wearing. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but circumstantial evidence is something quite different. Artist Douglas Shuler has been responsible for the somewhat hermaphroditic Benalish Hero, the Greco-Roman God-like Northern Paladin, the diesel-dyke-a-like Righteousness, the core set Corset Serra Angel, the Van Damme homage Veteran Bodyguard, Gary Glitter on Drain Power, a guy straight out of the San Francisco leather scene in Demonic Tutor, and now the campest costume this side of Judy Garland in The Wizard Of Oz. By now, I’m starting to think that when it comes to sex in Alpha, Doug is your man. The final nail in the coffin is yet to come… it’s Red, and leaves no room for argument.
Frozen Shade — the original flying monster that doesn’t fly. That’s right, they made a picture of a flying monster. Oops. Since I can’t imagine how to get this in any other way, now seems a good time to tell you about a delightful little game (and website) called Four Word Film Review, which, strangely enough, invites you to review a film in exactly four words. Frozen Shade, because of the flying/non-flying thing, always reminds me of this one: Supergirl — It Is A Bird.
Hypnotic Specter — another of the “iconic but bugger all use” brigade, it’s hard to think of a more miserable example of this group of former goodnesses. It should be soooo good. Instead it’s soooo dead.
Mind Twist — I really am perverse. Randy Buehler hates land destruction, whereas I think turn 1 Chrome Mox–Slith Firewalker-attack followed by Turn 2 Stone Rain is some of the most fun Magic ever. I am, as you can see, perfectly happy for players to have a grip full of cards that they can’t cast, rendering them effectively useless. Discard, on the other hand, I consider an abomination. Duress, Cry Of Contrition, Funeral Charm, especially Stupor, and as for this bad boy — when I finally sit at Craig Jones’s right hand as supreme overlord of all things Magic, you can burn The Rack for good baby, because discard is getting banned. And it won’t be just discard, it’ll be datcard too.
Pestilence — more crucial information you must have (and you’ll wonder how you survived without it) coming right up. Pestilence is the best ever card to choose if you’re ever invited to a Fancy Dress tournament where you have to “Come As A Card.” To achieve the desired effect, you will need an electric razor, a pillowcase, and a large piece of white bread. Step 1 — shave almost all hair off using electric razor. Step two — strategically place pillowcase across shoulder in sash-like fashion. Step three — cram enormous piece of white bread in mouth, masticate frantically (something most of you should have no trouble with) then allow mouth to fall open. Simple, effective, and nobody will ask for an encore. For the more adventurous, try coming as a Call Of The Herd token.
Sacrifice — this guy needs to get out more, although it looks like he isn’t about to have the chance. I’m pretty certain that this is the palest shade of humanoid out there in the Multiverse.
Sinkhole — how could you not love the feel of two-mana land destruction between your fingers? This is one of the main reasons to play Shandalar, the Magic computer game from Ago. Swamp, Mox Jet, Sinkhole your dual land. Awesome entertainment, and currently freely available online, if memory serves.
Word Of Command — there’s a famous film called “Blue” by Derek Jarman, and it consists of a blue image onscreen for the entire film. That’s it. Some might call that inspired creativity and demonstrating a sublime insight into the human condition. Others might call it cheating. Now Jesper Myrfors is someone we’ve already mentioned for his gorgeous Armageddon. Nonetheless, I have zero artistic talent and I can accurately recreate the full gorgeousness of Word Of Command in approximately eight seconds. If I start with a black piece of paper, I can get this down to five. Meet me in Valencia at the Pro Tour or Firenze on the European Grand Prix circuit, and not only will I prove this to you, but I will even sign it for you! This Magic art gig is pretty cool.
Dwarven Warriors — and that’s game set and match to me, Mr Shuler. If you’re going to tell me that this joker isn’t straight out of the Magic equivalent of the Village People, I’m going to call you a liar. Flavor text for this one: “No dwarf does it all by himself, I said Young Dwarf…..it’s fun to stay at the Y.D.C.A…….”
Earthquake — everybody is entitled to my opinion, and sometimes their own. Philosophically, I believe in benign dictatorship as the correct model to get anything done. Nowhere in Magic is this more painfully proved than when R & D foolishly allowed you lot some input into the Core Set. I appreciate it created lots of interest, but the price was clearly too high. I don’t know which of you entered a parallel universe where the never-ever-used Hurricane was worth opening as a rare instead of the stonkingly-fabulous tournament staple Earthquake, but Shame. On. You. Democracy run riot, and look what happened. Sigh.
Fire Elemental — if you’re a twelve-year-old boy, this is the card to remember when you’re trying to understand the concept of Look But Don’t Touch.
Fireball — I know I’ve complained about a couple of the rules texts, but this is the card that went horribly wrong once they tried to fix it. XR divided equally with extra cost beyond the first became the super-friendly XYZqR where q was the opponent intelligence rating, Y and Z were arbitrary numbers determined by you or occasionally a passing Judge, X was usually somebody’s life total and R was generally a Red mana paid for by sacrificing Quicksand. Elegant reworking and rewording at its finest.
Hill Giant — here, it’s a big guy in a skirt. In Lord Of The Rings, it’s a twenty-minute DVD extra detailing the 18 months it took to create the authentic 9th-century style panels on the bodice. Peter, it’s still a big guy in a skirt. Leave it.
Keldon Warlord — You probably know the word compensation, but I’m going to use it in a less-frequently applied context. See, I haven’t actually measured it, but I suspect that pixel for pixel this is the biggest sword in the history of Magic, and as far as I’m concerned, anyone who runs around with a sword like that has some compensation issues. Ladies, I don’t want to put you off, but should you ever meet this guy, prepare to be disappointed.
Lightning Bolt — what a glorious, glorious card. When R & D are fiddling about with Entwine, or Kicker, or Sideline (the new Lorwyn tutoring mechanic that enables you to discard your hand in exchange for up to three cards from your Sideboard) they should have a picture of Lightning Bolt on their desk as a reminder of exactly what they should be aiming for. So clean, so explicit, sooooo good.
Orcish Artillery — as a teacher, this is another card I love, because it’s the definitive guide to new players how life can be treated as a resource. I’ve lost count of the number of people who think this card is hideous and essentially unplayable. And in Alpha, it only cost 1R!!!! Insane.
Shivan Dragon — I’ve never quite worked out why this became so iconic. It’s very cartoonish in feel, akin to “Pete’s Dragon,” a rather nasty little Disney CGI-fest when CGI should really have only been in the lab. I suspect this one will never be good ever again. Kokusho and Meloku and Yosei (and even Maelstrom Djinn) have seen to that.
Tunnel — it’s a tunnel. See Lance.
Two-Headed Giant Of Foriys — I love the fact that R & D have at least one eye on the past when they design the future. The Time Spiral totem cycle is a great example of this, and although Phyrexian and Weatherseed are the clear winners in Constructed terms, it’s nice to see the original Red guy here.
Birds Of Paradise — Although this is about as universal as knowledge gets (the Pope is Catholic, McDonalds isn’t food etc.) I feel obliged to cater to the three of you who don’t know the story behind this one. What you’re looking at is the artwork for Tropical Island, the UG dual land. But the story goes that the art department didn’t buy it, because the island was so far off in the distance, and the focus of the art was this hogging-half-the-page bird. Rather than waste the art, the card was “reverse engineered” and R & D pulled out a theoretically unexciting 0/1 to suit the card, which of course went on to become pretty much the most iconic picture and Green card in the history of the game. Sweet.
Channel — and in our own version of the Magic Academy, now sadly concluded, this is how we explain the Two-Card Combo. First, Lightning Bolt your opponent, putting them to less life than you. Cast Channel. Pay 19 life. Cast Fireball at head for 19. Good game. In Alpha, this could happen on turn 1. Astonishingly, Channel eventually got banned.
Craw Wurm — ah yes, absolutely everything that’s wrong with Green in one simple card. A notionally enormous, stupidly expensive, actually a huge let-down to the team do-nothing fat guy. And in other news, Craig Stevenson. [Man, I get no respect. — Craig.]
Giant Spider — this guy “does not fly, but can block flying creatures.” What, like Frozen Shade? Pretty much anyone who has played the game for a while will have welcomed the decision to finally bring some clarity to the whole Silhana Ledgewalker-type of nonsense, but the burning question remains. If SClub7 knew that Reach was the way forward, how come it took Wizards so long?
Lifeforce — I’m going to stick my neck out here, but I reckon this is the only placenta you’ll see on a Magic card. Although it’s a near thing, since I was working on my G/R Aggro deck in the Delivery Room when my daughter was born. Thankfully, the deck was already sleeved.
Llanowar Elves — go back to the 1980s, and if you walked around central London of an evening for long enough, you could find guys looking just like this. I think if I ever kept just one Magic card to take with me to the hypothetical desert island, it would be this, the first “good” card I ever heard about.
Tsunami — hmm, my guess is that scientifically-specific names for natural phenomena aren’t slated for a return any time soon. Am I alone in feeling slightly uncomfortable when I see this card, given relatively recent events? Still, among the many benefits of playing Magic, we get to learn some seriously arcane bits of linguistic trickery. I’m especially grateful to whoever contributed to me winning $100 in a quiz, since I knew (like any good Magic player) that earth, fire, and sea had nothing to do with the term “katabatic.”
Ankh of Mishra — I love land destruction, therefore I love this card.
Basalt Monolith — one of the greatest kill mechanisms ever invented. Go ahead, read it. Spotted the combo with The Clock yet? The Clock, by the way, isn’t a Magic card, but the timer on Magic Online. Simply get your opponent down to the last few minutes of time, then tap your Monolith, untap your Monolith, tap your Monolith, untap your Monolith, tap your Monolith… you can pretty much guarantee that Wizards will have put Basalt Monolith into the online-only Masters Edition for this very reason. Possibly.
Black Lotus — how much did people understand at the very start of Magic? Look at all the things that are bad about Black Lotus. You have to sacrifice it. You only get to use it once. You only get one color from it. It costs you a card from your hand. It does, essentially, nothing. Somewhere in the world, there are Magic players who started during Alpha and got their hands on a Black Lotus by trading away their Craw Wurm, because as we know, Craw Wurms are big. If you are the man with that Craw Wurm still in your possession, we want to hear from you — how can you bear the shame?
Black Vise — the quasi-humorous tone is going to be put on hold for a moment, so don’t expect a punchline to this one. I don’t like pain. Violence, blood, death, that’s all in a different category. But seeing someone in pain is something I’m even finding it hard to write about. Obviously, Magic is a game of extreme violence — every creature in the game is, after all, a weapon of death and destruction — but I feel physically ill when I look at Black Vise or The Rack. It doesn’t matter that the character is some kind of cartoon cut-out character. For me, it doesn’t lesson the impact of cards like these, or Torture, or indeed Wheel Of Torture, funny flavor text notwithstanding (“I’d like to buy a bowel”). This is just nasty.
Glasses Of Urza — it’s a real trick trying to design the future. As a musician, I’m always amused by the archetypal scene in a bar from the 27th century, where some poor working hack in Los Angeles has to imagine what music will be like X-hundred years hence. Whether it’s the Mos Eisley bar scene in Star Wars, Spock playing the inter-galactic harp thingy in Star Trek, or the quasi-trance nonsense of Buck Rogers, every attempt just can’t help but fail. So it is with world design. In 1993, these glasses probably looked quite other-wordly. Now, those square frames are available at your local Specsavers, as worn by pseudo-intellectual muso Elvis Costello.
Jayemdae Tome — this is the last of our educational series, and it takes the new player into realms of strategic insight he can barely have imagined when he opened his first booster. For a glimpse into that wider world of Magic theory, Jayemdae Tome can’t be beaten, as it is the subject of one of the most famous Magic articles ever, Investment by Mike Flores (of whom some of you may have heard tell.) It’s such an obviously good card, what with drawing cards being a good thing and all, and in Tenth it has absolutely staggering artwork, but to read about the true cost of a card like this was certainly a turning point for me in my relationship to the game. If you’ve never read about Investment, you should do so right away. The world of Magic will look different once you’ve done so.
Kormus Bell — the most gloriously woolly bit of rules text ever. I can’t help but giggle when I get to the words “and so forth.” And so forth, excuse me?
Moxes — If these things really existed, which one would you want to own? Surely, it has to be Mox Jet. The Blue one has almost as much gold as blue on it. The Green one has a stupid creature spoiling it. The Red one is full of impurities and weird internal patterns, and the White one simply looks like a $1 light bulb. The Jet, on the other hand, is pure evil.
Obsianus Golem — it’s good to know that the tradition of unfunny flavor text was started right at the beginning.
The Dual Lands — trivia question: how many original Dual Lands were there? Answer: nine. Yep, along with Circle Of Protection: Black, Volcanic Island missed the party, which is probably bad news for the guy who opened an entire box of Alpha in search of one for his Vintage Nationals deck last week. While we’re on the subject of bad ideas, what’s with the utterly hideous text boxes, where it is almost impossible to read the writing, thanks to the eye-exam background? If this lot weren’t so good in the game, they’d be ghastly.
And that pretty much wraps up our look at where it all began. I think for most of us Magic is divided roughly into 50% right now, 49% next tournament, and 1% the next set or block. But from time to time, especially in the dog days of Summer, it’s nice to quit theorising, designing, building, and testing, and simply marvel at how far things have come since 1993. And maybe, if we’re feeling unusually kind-hearted for a bunch of duellists, offer a silent thanks to a very bright guy who started the whole shebang, Richard Garfield.
Next week, I’ll be taking a number-crunching look at Lorwyn, and what it means to your wallet/purse/pink diamante-encrusted handbag.
Thanks for reading.