Friday, February 26, 2010

How it was opening a Starter Box

"How did it feel?" The younger players might ask.

Sometimes I read posts from people warmly remembering the days of yore, when they were popping out Black Lotuses and Dual Lands every time they opened a pack.

Well, I remember perhaps a little more clearly, and I can tell you things were much worse then than they are now. First off, I started opening magic packs when Revised was out. Legends packs were like 10 bucks each, and I don't think I ever saw a Beta pack.

And despite what I hear from plenty of other folks, and despite the prices I see on Ebay, I am confident in my knowledge that Revised was 95% garbage.

Which means Beta was about 90% total rubbish.

Heresy, you say?

Well you've probably already seen the video if you are on The Starkington Post at all.

But here, on Youtube, in a rare moment is the infamous "Card Wizard" digging into a Beta Starter Box.

He does the appropriate oohs and aahs over a Beta Fork and Beta Regrowth, but if you had been opening those in 1996…you would have been doing the "aw, nuts" dance.

Let's go over a few things regarding the particularly disappointing nature of the Beta (and Revised in my case) printing layout.

1. This was back when Wizards was trying to disguise the rarity of cards. Edwards notes this when he finds a couple a land thrown into the uncommon slots. Yes, that's right you could get lands instead of uncommons and even RARES in the original packs.

2. Rares, uncommons and commons did not display the tightly wound cohesiveness of today's modern sets. In the video, Edwards opens a couple of cards I am quite familiar with from my Revised pack opening days. Darkpact, which is an "ante" related card you might as well throw in the garbage and Deathlace, which is another card you might as well put in the spokes of your bike on your next trip down to Quik Trip for a slushie. These were the awesome Rares you had to look forward to opening again and again.

3. A Fork is pretty good, and really should have been a "score" for anyone opening a Core Set starter in the late 90's. But to be honest, back then we weren't looking for Forks. We were looking for Shivan Dragons. And this pack didn't have any. If you were a supremely cognizant magic player and wanted the Lotus, in this case you would have had a 1-in-60 chance…so over $400 (in 1996) worth of packs…to get 1 of the fabled card.

So there you go, a look inside a starter pack. And note that while Edwards is amazed that this deck he is opening originally retailed for 7 dollars, keep in mind that some kid was probably at one point sorely disappointed he spent 7 dollars on another Deathlace plus a bunch of cards he already has.

There is a visceral joy to opening random packs of cards. But most of the time you really want to open packs of singles you purchased off Ebay. It is a different sort of satisfaction that kid in 1996 would have loved to experience.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Random Card of the Week: False Summoning

Today's Random Card of the Week is False Summoning. Released in the "beginner" Portal Second Age Set, False Summoning suffers from a crazy text box designed to confuse a beginning player as much as possible, perhaps even forcing them to quit magic altogether. The theory wasn't new, Richard Garfield actually first implemented this strategy in the original Magic Starter Rule Book, usually found in old-school starter boxes. Where does my mana go again? And the game sold like hotcakes, folks!

The basic idea for Portal was to eliminate the "instant" spell. Too hard to cast spells on top of each other! Instead they forced Sorcerys to fulfill the same duties…does that make any sense?

What we have here is a completely functionally-equivalent version of Remove Soul or Essence Scatter, but in a package requiring extensive explanation and Internet search queries every time you play it. A good card for showing off your new iPhone.

"It's actually an Instant, you see my good man. Let me pull out this electronic device and prove it to you."

The art for False Summoning is the product of the esteemed Tony DeTerlizzi, the guy who also did all the art for The Spiderwick Chronicles. Unfortunately, his talents in the Magic: The Gathering world have been mostly limited to bizarre Portal and Starter cards like the aforementioned False Summoning.

Other weird cards you better have your iPhone (and your Spiderwick Chronicles box set) ready for:

Fire Imp
Goblin Game

See, you never have to put the phone away! Look at the possibilities.

With over 10,000 Magic: The Gathering cards, you can be assured there are many more Random Cards of the Week to come. Perhaps tomorrow, or even a week from now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can't stop this

I've been working on a new deck.

Here's any interesting set of constraints: I have an associate at work who just found his old Magic cards. He played mostly during the Revised period, ending with some sporatic purchases  around Tempest and eventually tossing the whole works in a friend's basement.

Finding a common interest, he dug them out and had fun looking at all those good cards again. Now he wants to face off against me. But he doesn't want to deal with any of those "new-fangled" cards. So the question becomes, what kind of deck will I build using only Revised-era cards?

I can barely remember any of my decks from that era, but I'm pretty sure they all sucked. I didn't have a very good "ramp". Back in the day, you started somewhere in the middle and worked your way to the fatties. And that was okay, because your opponent was in the same boat.

Nobody had ever heard of Paul Sligh. Or Jay Schneider.

So maybe its best that I start from the beginning.

I'm going to need some powerful, undercosted creatures. I'm going to need some powerful spells. I'm going to need some mana acceleration and I'm going to need some control elements.

First stop, my all-time favorite card in the whole wide world, Juggernaut!

4 Mana for a 5/3 is still pretty awesome some 13 years later. Even though we suddenly find ourselves with Lodestone Golem, certainly a guy can appreciate the original face-smasher.

4 cards don't make a deck, I've still got 36 left. Oh yeah, this is definitely going to be old school. And by that, I mean OLDE SKOOL. Charles Dickens ain't got nothing on me.

More to come, in chapter 2.

A World of Hurt at Prerelease

Worldwake prerelease was something I had been looking forward to for quite a while. The first set designed by the supreme Kenneth Nagle, I looked forward to his reintepretation of the Zendikar universe. And manlands. And Everflowing Chalice.

Of course, it was not meant to be. Starting Thursday night, the entire family(except for ME) came down with the most horrible of stomach flus. And me without my serum drip. I spent the entire weekend washing clothes and bedding. Again and again and again.

But that's the way life is. I am, after all, an adult. The real world intrudes on my fantasy life plenty, and to tell you the truth I wouldn't have it any other way.

I might not talk about Magic 100% of the time going forward. After a period of reflection, I've decided it may be easier to maintain a steadier stream of posts if I change up my topics a little. Games, mostly. But probably a little more Magic, too, since I've had quite a bit happen since my last burst of posting.

Talk to you all very soon!