As I am always quick to point out, I’ve been playing Magic since you could buy packs of Arabian Nights and Unlimited at your local comic shop. I’ve been around a long while and have loved Magic with a passion the entire time. My goal now is to be the last geezer standing amongst Magic writers, if only Flores would burn out I may have a shot. My plot involves a voodoo doll, obscure fertility rites, and a scheme to replace certain birth control pills with Repronex. The hope is that Mike’s precious daughter will have numerous siblings over the coming years, burying Mike in diapers, pacifiers, coloring books, and car seats. A singular child gives him way too much free time to write and play Magic, so if I’m to have any hope to win the longevity race Mike needs more babies, ASAP.
Anyway, being a Magic antediluvian has some advantages beyond gray hairs and worrying about Alzheimer’s. I’ve actually enthusiastically shuffled up some of these cards the first time around and can give you some ideas that you may find helpful. I won’t bother with the newer cards, since I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Akroma and Call of the Herd are awesome. So, on with the Purple traipse through time…
Arena is a great throwback to a time when you could get cards by sending in coupons from the back of Magic novels, or find them shrink-wrapped in a gaming magazine. There weren’t a whole lot of Arenas running around back in the day, and the existence of Strip Mine and, later, Wasteland kept them from seeing too much play, even in casual decks. But I loved playing with Arena, namely because I loved playing with huge Green creatures and was always lacking in creature removal. The strength of Arena is in the timing of its activation; if you declare attackers and then activate Arena, you’ll get to tap one of your opponent’s creatures that cannot then block. Arena is a great way to exchange damage when your opponent isn’t cooperating by getting into creature combat; cards like Golgari Thug and Phytohydra spring to mind, or a little more old-school – Sengir Vampire.
Auratog (Tempest Rare)
Once upon a time, Auratog had Rancor to play with, giving it +2/+2 for each Green mana you had available, and then the final casting to give it +2/+0 and trample. While the degenerate Rancor didn’t make it through the shifting sands of time, Time Spiral brings us some new enchantments very much like Rancor that can be used to drive an Auratog engine. Of those, probably Spirit Loop is the most interesting. Of course, we also don’t want to forget about Hatching Plans, and Auratog can serve as an interesting partner to Dowsing Shaman and Ravnica’s Auras that do fun stuff when they come into play. Or Zur the Enchanter.
Avoid Fate (Legends Common)
I had a couple of these and Ring of Immortals, having picked them up for nothing because they were horrible. Then this wonderful thing happened – they changed the rules and Interrupts no longer existed, and all cards referencing Interrupts now used Instants instead. So instead of dodging Laces I could now dodge Swords to Plowshares! In this new land of ridiculous burn, having a cheap Green counterspell for instants could prove to be quite handy if you happen to have an extra Green mana you’re not using for anything else that turn (see Wall of Roots below).
Celestial Dawn (Mirage Rare, Classic Sixth Edition Rare)
I was never a big fan of this card back in the day, and now that everybody is Cryoclasm happy I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to even fool around with this. Still, I thought I’d mention that this card does quite a lot for just three mana, and if you’re playing Orzhov and find Paladin En-Vec to be crimping your style, this might be a surprising sideboard card. Is there a Celestial Sunforger deck waiting to be made?
Claws of Gix (Urza’s Saga Uncommon)
Yes, gaining one life in exchange for a permanent is pretty mediocre (and calling that mediocre is like calling Congressman Foley’s emails and text messages “naughty”), but Claws of Gix can serve as a role-player (heh, channeling Mike Flores here) for specific needs. Specifically, when designing decks and exploring ideas, the ability to sacrifice something is sometimes difficult to find outside of Black’s Nantuko Husk and Green’s Greater Good. Hatching Plans is a tantalizing package of potential desperate to be cracked open for cards, and perhaps Claws can help. If your friend’s Living End deck has got your down, Claws can be one way to make sure your creatures in play go to the graveyard in time to join the undead party.
Cockatrice (Alpha – Fifth Edition Rare)
Old-schoolers used to joke about how the Basilisk “upgrade” is actually worse since the Basilisk combo (with Lure) isn’t nearly as effective. Back in the day I found Cockatrice much more useful as a killer blocker in a color without many fliers, and while a good blocker won’t get anyone’s blood pumping nowadays, I will point out that Cockatrice can block and kill Akroma and Simic Sky Swallower.
Consecrate Land (Alpha – Unlimited Edition Rare)
When you absolutely, positively have to protect a particular land! Of course, Sacred Ground does the job better nine times out of ten, but I can’t help but wonder if this reprint indicates Sacred Ground might be getting the axe next summer. Back in the day, Consecrate Land was used infrequently to enchant Mishra’s Factory (though the prevalence of Swords to Plowshares made that strategy mostly futile), but outside of Svogthos, the Restless Tomb we don’t have too many man-lands running around. Who knows what Planar Chaos or Future Sight may bring?
Craw Giant (Legends, Chronicles, Fifth Edition Uncommon)
I’ve always loved large Green men, but even I couldn’t really get behind Craw Giant back then, since he required a slew of blockers to get nasty, and if your opponent had a slew of creatures available to block, he’d probably just take the hit and swing back with his dudes (Lure combos aside). The best scenario I cooked up for Craw Giant is playing him alongside Varchild’s War Riders, with Barbed Foliage playing defense against a Survivor token counterattack. Green’s men today are just much better than this fellow, but I suppose it’s nice to remind everyone about Rampage.
Darkness (Legends Common)
Darkness has always been a fun card to toss in group game decks, particularly ones without Green or White where your opponent could be ambushed by the “fog” effect in a color that is not supposed to have it. On a modern casual note, Darkness can combine with Gorgon Recluse, Deathgazer, or Cockatrice to kill the creature involved in combat even though damage is not done.
Desert (Arabian Nights Common)
Desert has always been overly polite as far as creature kill goes: after you… no, after you! The ping comes late to the party if you’re being dealt lethal damage by attacking creatures, but before then Desert is pretty good for what it does. When I wasn’t doing silly things with Gaea’s Cradle, I was known to untap a Desert or two with my Candelabra of Tawnos, and look ma – we’ve got a Magus of the Candelabra now! So when you’re not untapping Karoos or Urzatron, mowing down weenies with a Desert or two isn’t a bad deal.
Dragon Whelp (Alpha – Fourth Edition Uncommon)
I’ve always felt this little guy was rather humorous – with enough mana you could have this guy fire-breathe like Papa Shivan, but at the end of the turn he blows up since his juvenile body can’t handle adult-sized breath. Still, pumping three times is five damage, which isn’t insignificant, especially through the air. If you’re playing heavy Red, I would not overlook this card.
Enduring Renewal (Ice Age Rare)
This card was responsible for a combo deck that set the whole ludicrous practice of naming combo decks after cereals, even if you’re stretching the connection miles past the breaking point. Bloom Drain? Now that was a proper combo deck name. Fruity Pebbles? Groan… I suppose it’s inevitable that somebody will come up with some dumb cereal name for the new Enduring Renewal/Wild Cantor/Grapeshot combo deck that will surely be tried at Champs. Combos aside, Enduring Renewal was also used alongside strategies where you could access creatures that Renewal forced you to discard, such as Apprentice Necromancer, Recurring Nightmare, Oath of Ghouls, etc.
Eron the Relentless (Homelands Uncommon)
I always felt bad for ol’ Eron – his artwork is kinda cool, but his regeneration ability was just way overcosted since, with two toughness, you’d need to hold that mana back all the time. Creatures have gotten even better since then, so sadly he’s likely going to see even less play today. You know, as bad as Homelands was, it did have a couple Legends that would have been interesting to have in the new Standard; why not Autumn Willow or even Joven?