(Editor’s note –

This is awesome. 

Patrick decided that we’ve been complaining about Commander’s Arsenal and threat assessment too much, and put together this cool look back at some of the…er…’gems’ of the past.  Not everything was as busted as people like to believe it was; just ask anyone who bought a box of Fallen Empires. 

—>Cass)

I’m old.

You may or not have been alive when I started playing Magic, but suffice to say a lot has changed since then.  I started when Antiquities was the “new set”, and when Colossus of Sardia was the biggest gosh-darn thing anyone had ever seen.  Holy potatoes, he was big.

I have (semi) fond memories of selling Force of Nature and Royal Assassin to kids in the lunchroom at high school for $10 straight cash apiece.  I knew someone who traded a Shivan Dragon straight up for a Mox Emerald. 
Those were the bad old days.

I bring this up because everyone likes to talk about how ‘bad’ we all were back then; how you could play a deck with four Balance, but somehow Juggernaut was banned.  This is accurate.  I used to routinely win Type One tournaments with a deck that ran two Old Man of the Sea because I thought it was cool.  I might have owned a Mana Drain or two, but they weren’t really all that much better than Counterspell, right?

People often talk about the broken cards (like Balance and Mana Drain) that they used to print before they knew better. 
Sure.  I don’t want to talk about that. 
I want to talk about how Wizards used to do it, and why the bad old days were, you know, bad.

Consider this card:

Pretty good, right?  Highly EDH playable.  Draft bomb if you could get to seven (which means he was OK in draft). Overall, a pretty fair card.

Compare this to a seven mana, 6/6 demon from 1994:

The best thing about the awfulness of Mold Demon is that he’s not even the worst creature in the set.  If you were to draft Legends, he’s probably a snap first pick because he’s huge and there’s pretty much no answer to him in the entire set (and if your opponent Drains him they’re probably taking seven manaburn TO THE FACE anyway.) 
THIS IS WHAT A SEVEN MANA RARE DEMON USED TO LOOK LIKE.

Perhaps you like punishment.  Let me spank you with this:

THIS USED TO BE A CRAZY CHASE RARE.

It’s not like Swords to Plowshares was printed before this or anything.  For the life of me I cannot figure out how or why this was ever considered good.  I remember reading about this card in Scrye without any idea of what the bloody thing actually did (I’m from Vermont; we got the Internet up here about two months ago), and speculating about how it must be some insane crazy thing based on the fact that it was selling for the unbelievable price of THIRTY DOLLARS.

0/1? Really? Sure it pumps for colorless, but it still has base ZERO power.  This same card exists these days more or less as

Which gets plus-three to its ass, and is still unplayable in draft. 
Why were we so terrible back then?

In other news, I used to own two of these:

I know this only valuable because of the artwork (which, to be fair, is dynamite!)   It sure isn’t because this thing is any good.  In fact, let’s track the evolution of this particular type of thing.

Sure, he will die eventually to his own ability, but he’s huge! He’s common! What a terrible idea!

This was, the time it was printed, the new gold standard for rubbish black things.  It was sort of like paying for three turns upfront in exchange for a huge dude who really did nothing.  To be fair, this thing was probably a huge beating in some standard deck, but it’s telling that I’ve never seen anyone play this in anything ever because 5/5 vanilla beaters that deal damage to you are just not that good.  Speaking of…

I remember the week when this was a chase rare.  Then, it dropped to nothing.  By this point creatures were sufficiently good that this guy was almost immediately deemed unplayable, because the deck that would have played him wanted to spend four mana on a 4/1 hasty trampling untargetable bug. 
That’s right – a 5/5 for four mana is no longer impressive.  Speaking of which:

I remember when people used to play this as board tech against Slivers decks.  Yeah!

Here’s how far we’ve come since Arabian Nights: 5/5 with an upside for 4 mana, and you can pick these up for a quarter.  Why does the Reserved List exist, again?
Compare this:

With this:

Force of Nature used to be the most ridiculous beating of all time, especially when you had four Giant Growth and two Berserk and everyone (including you) was playing a hundred-card deck with no removal.  People sometimes play Terra Stomper in their EDH decks when they can’t find anything better, which is like never.

Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without the gold standard:

Quick, what’s the difference between these two?
If you chose “Only one of them can be played as the general of the worst deck you’ve ever seen!” -Gee Whillikers, you are right! 
Ok, so maybe the bad old days never really left.

Who can provide another example?  I dare you.

XO,

->Mr. P

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Mr. P is over bored and self assured (and all he knows are dirty words.)