There’s nothing like deluxe satellite TV at 3:30 in the morning. Nothing.
Having risen to change and re-settle my son in his crib in the middle of the night, I decided to cash in a few hours of needed sleep in favor of reverting back to my adolescence. A quiet house, a few-hundred channels, a bowl of Cheerios, and…
…well, as it turns out, Billy Zane. Go figure.
I worked my way through the usual array of home-improvement and Discovery Channel reality shows, made a quick stop off at the Palladia channel to watch some live Iron Maiden footage, and suffered through a little bit of a documentary on hardcore and punk music. (The documentary was fantastic. The music itself was god-awful. This is coming from a punk drummer who grew up playing this stuff; no wonder our parents made us practice in the garage and never came to see our shows…)
A few more clicks, and I found myself strangely mesmerized by the cinematic tour-de-force that is
. Survival Island
Go ahead…check out the link. (For the guys reading, do try to make it back here at some point after searching Google Images for Kelly Brook. Thanks for reading, as always.)
Spoiler alert –
is bad on an epic scale. This is a straight-to-DVD release for a reason, folks. Good ol’ Billy Zane – helping movie studios make tax write-offs since…er…well, I’ll get back to you on that one. Survival Island
Long story short, it’s a movie about being stranded on a desert island, so I figured I’d revisit my own foray there from last year. This time around, we’re focusing on the Legends expansion, which was my first Magic experience beyond the Core Set. Without further ado, today we break from the EDH mold and look back on my formulative years –
RETURN TO THE
GENERAL – Palladia
We hadn’t been playing Magic for very long when Legends came out. It was a very exciting time; this was the first expansion that hit while we had been playing, as Antiquities had gone out of print just before we started. From faithfully reading Scrye, we knew this was a monster – over three-hundred new cards! Keep in mind, this was back in the days before internet and spoilers. We had the monthly magazines to rely on for our news, and if memory serves, there were no fully-spoiled cards. (I have a recollection of seeing the artwork for Knowledge Vault and Hornet Cobra, and that’s about it.)
Those of you who were around then will remember that this was exactly the time when Magic was really taking off. The ramifications of this boom meant that Wizards Of The Coast had woefully under-ordered the print run for Legends. They simply had no idea that there was a demand out there; as a result, local stores were setting hard ration limits on packs. (If you could find a place that would sell you more than two packs per day, you were incredibly lucky.) Store owners were making frantic calls to distributors to beg and plead for product; I recall our hometown shop owner telling us that he would be lucky to get a box every few months, and his cost was in the mid-triple digits.
The result was that Mr. P and I would spend our nights and weekends piling into my battered ’68 Nova to scour
New England for packs of Legends that frequently cost upwards of $30 each. No joke – we’re talking two high-school students driving at times over four hours round-trip for the privilege of coming home a few hundred-dollars lighter in the wallet, with barely a draft set each.
Anyway, these were still the days of being wowed by creatures. Force Of Nature was the biggest thing out there, and Shivan Dragons were trading higher than nearly any other card out there. The hype surrounding Legends was a new creature sub-type that gave “legendary” status; these were meant to be creatures so unique that you weren’t just limited to any given one in play at a time, but rather one in your deck at a time. (As if anyone was able to source more than one copy of a rare from the set back then…)
Again, with only Scrye to hint at the mechanics and no spoilers, we were salivating over the possibilities. This was going to change the game forever. No more faceless creatures…these characters brought a story to our little obsession of a fantasy world.
When I windmill-slammed my thirty bucks on the local counter and was handed my first pack, I didn’t know what to expect. I was literally trembling.
The soft crinkle of the plastic tearing open. The smell of freshly-printed cardboard. I fanned open the cards, and (literally) struck gold in the back of the pack.
Summon Elder Dragon Legend.
Palladia was the first Legends rare I ever pulled.
ARTIFACT – Horn Of Deafening
Rarity was an interesting thing back when Legends came out. You didn’t get colored expansion symbols to tell you what was what, and we had no idea if there was any order to the packs. I could be making this up, but I think the checklists in the magazines omitted rarity as well. As a result, we had no clue what was more valuable than the rest as we cracked open our over-priced packs.
One of the first few packs that I opened revealed Craw Giant. This was right up my alley; a giant green creature with trample that got bigger the more you got in his way. We had Craw Giant pegged at rare for a long time. I was more than happy to slam a Lure and a Regeneration on him and throw him into the fray over and over. (Ah, the days when “aura” was spelled “E-N-C-H-A-N-T-C-R-E-A-T-U-R-E”…)
Little did I know that the trusty horn was actually the rare of the pack. Slowly, I started adding it to my deck, and it didn’t take long to understand how strong the “Maze” effect actually was. I no-longer feared Mr. P’s Shivan Dragon assault, and I didn’t need to hold back anything during my attack phase – I was covered.
Horn Of Deafening was the spiritual predecessor for Icy Manipulator, once we learned of its’ existence and one or two managed to filter into our limited card pools. Before that, we really had no understanding of how strong effects that effected combat damage and attacking really were.
(Side note: Jesus…were none of us playing enchantment/artifact removal back then?!?!?)
CREATURE – Time Elemental
The other guys were into the dragons and demons, but I had a soft spot for elementals. This probably came from my early days, combing my well-worn copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Manual and marveling at the powerful spells that could conjure creatures straight out of the earth or the air. (If you guessed “Didn’t lose his virginity until he got to college, you’re closer than you think…) While my main deck was a green-based aggro deck featuring Birds Of Paradise and Wild Growth to accelerate out Cockatrice and Thicket Basilisk, I built a second “more-competitive” deck that was red and blue and was based on beating with Fire Elemental and Water Elemental while hurling Lightning Bolt, Fireball, and protecting the works with Counterspell. It was my first take on a “theme deck.”
When the Scrye with the Legends checklist was released, we poured over the list endlessly, speculating on what cards did what, which ones were the crazy legendary ones we were hearing hype about, and what we (with absolutely zero knowledge of actual card function) just had to get our hands on. I quickly zeroed in on Time Elemental. It seemed like a powerful and exotic name for a creature, and I was positive it would be game-breaking.
Mr. P received word that the shop had just gotten a box in. It had been a few months since the first one, and we very-nearly skipped school to head down and dig in as soon as possible. We had developed a gentlemen’s agreement that there were certain cards we “called”, meaning that if the other person pulled one from a pack, he was duty-bound to trade it on the spot. I’m pretty sure Time Elemental was my only “call”; Mr. P had similarly laid dibs on The Wretched.
This was my one and only called shot in the history of the game. We got to the store, each plunked down $35, and were handed our daily-limit ration of one pack.
“Time Elemental.” I nodded. Mr. P tore his pack open.
That afternoon, my green deck found room for the diminutive 0/2 Boomerang-on-legs.
SORCERY – Recall
This card was one of the first true all-stars of the set, and one of the early “money cards” on the secondary market. (The “market” back in those days was the listing of mail-order shops in the back of the gaming magazines. You’d call, place an order, and then mail a check in and wait six to eight weeks for your card to arrive. If I could marry my web browser and MasterCard, I’d do it.) We knew the power of Regrowth from Revised; this was just a whole other level, and in the “competitive” color.
My first experience with Recall was in
. College was right around the corner, and Mr. P’s mother had set him up with a series of visits to various institutions that were possible places for him to land. Somehow, the plan was to pack the car and head out on his own halfway across the country to spend the better part of spring break hanging out at these schools, taking tours, and deciding where the best fit was going to be. I naturally agreed to come along for the ride. Oberlin, Ohio
We arrived at
early in the trip, and found the admissions center. There, we were introduced to our student guide, a Mr. Luke Brooks-Schessler. Now, Mr. P’s mother was asked what his interests were when setting up the college visit. Mr. P played football in high school, but apparently had not communicated to his mother that it was a passing interest that he had no plans of continuing whilst pursuing higher education. The result was that we were shown around the school for two days by the captain of the football team. Oberlin College
The initial meeting was short and to the point.
Luke – “Nice to meet you guys! I hear you play football?”
Mr. P. – “Uh…yeah.”
Luke – “Nice!”
Me – “I don’t.”
Luke – “…let’s go hit up the library. I’ll introduce you to some of the guys!”
“The guys” were the football team. The tour from then on consisted of going to a new place on campus, looking for members of the football team, and moving on.
Oh, and when I answered “no”, I quite-literally disappeared in Luke’s eyes. He didn’t say another word to me in the two days we were there, and I was given the space under his bunk-bed to sleep in.
I made an apology to a frustrated Mr. P and took off on my own to head downtown. I figured on grabbing a bite and catching a movie. The first place I wandered into was a cool-looking cafeteria that served lunch-counter food and had tons of tables. I ordered a burger, looked around, and was shocked to discover that literally the entire room was filled with people playing and trading Magic cards.
I ran to the car, grabbed my trade binder, and ran back. Many hours later, I nodded off to sleep underneath a bed, with a fresh copy of Recall nestled safely in a binder sleeve.
It wasn’t too long after the release of the set that we started to “figure out” the game. We had a regular Sunday night tournament at a comic shop in nearby
(again, what parents are letting their teenage kids stay out until midnight on a school night? Man, I need to have a talk with mom and dad…), and we were introduced to actual competition for the first time, in addition to a vastly-expanded card pool. Lebanon, NH
We began to come across and pick up Power (I remember someone offloaded a well-played but in-decent-shape beta Ancestral Recall to me for a very reasonable pile of Revised stuff), and started to understand that casting big creatures and turning them sideways didn’t quite stand up to decks that could control the game while dealing damage to you directly and quickly, negating your creatures as threats completely in the process.
I started winning games regularly with my take on a “next-level” deck that had no creatures (save my trusty Birds for mana fixing) and won through massive direct damage. If I had to cobble together a rough deck list, it would look like this:
4 x Fork
4 x Storm Seeker
4 x Dark Ritual
4 x Black Vise
1 x Braingeyser
1 x Regrowth
1 x Wheel Of Fortune
4 x Birds Of Paradise
1 x Underworld Dreams
Power/Dual Lands as needed
The plan was simple; run out early Black Vise, and follow with Underworld Dreams, all the while refilling with card draw and Forking Storm Seeker for the win, preferrably right after a Wheel. It wasn’t unheard of to see me targeting my opponent with that Ancestral Recall.
Yep. Let that one sink in.
This was before fetchlands existed. That’s right – five-color direct damage with nothing but Birds to fix mana to pay for spells that cost multiple red, black, and blue.
No, really. It won. I swear.
PLANESWALKER – Not for a cool decade and a half yet
But man, Jace would’ve slid right into that deck, huh?
LAND – Mishra’s Factory
Yeah…it wasn’t in Legends. This was back in the day before anyone realized that The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale was any good, and there was nothing for Karakas to target.
Mishra’s Factory was the four-of include in my creatureless direct-damage deck. It made mana, and beat for two (or three!) in a pinch.
To recap – that’s no real mana fixing to speak of, no fetch lands, double-red costs, double blue costs, triple-black costs, and four of my lands produced colorless mana.
…Yeah, I don’t have any clue how it worked either.
. . . . .