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Tim Stoltzfus on Magic
The Times They Are A Changin'
August 1, 2005

As I mentioned in my first article, I have been playing Magic almost since it came out. I started in the Spring of 1994. At the time, Magic was a phenomenon unlike any that gaming had ever seen. The concept, the mechanics, everything about it was so fresh, yet felt so familiar, it was really a remarkable game. One of the amazing things about Magic is its ability to change. Other games since have tried to duplicate it, but Magic stands alone as a game able to shift without tremendously changing the game itself. Other CCGs only wish they could have no major rules revisions in six years (has it been THAT long since 6th Edition came out?!), and still be able to feel so fresh and interesting. For example, look at card types. I've played games that added some new card type every expansion. Magic didn't see a new card type for a whopping nine years, ending the drought when Equipment was introduced in Mirrodin.

Magic's strength lies in it's ability to be molded and have certain aspects be more important than others, dependent on the card pool at any given time. Some people don't like the constant shift that Standard and Block Constructed play involves. For those people, there is Legacy and Vintage formats to fiddle with. For the rest of us, it means a lot of fun. Back in the Summer of 1998, I went to Origins, which is a great gaming convention to go check out should you have the chance. Back then, Magic US Nationals was held at Origins. The day before Nationals started, they held the "meat grinders", a series of single elimination tournaments to give people a last shot at qualifying for Nationals. David Williams had shown me the deck he used in the first grinder, a deck that used Living Death and a new card from Exodus, Survival of the Fittest. I really liked the deck and was showing it to fellow Guildmage (and Pojo writer) Jeff Zandi. To this day, I remember him saying, "I don't know, I don't really like any deck that relies on a five casting cost Sorcery to win the game." Fast forward to modern times, when the arguably best deck in Standard relies on what is functionally a sorcery that costs nine to cast! A nine casting cost sorcery that is often used to search up a five casting cost goblin and an eight casting cost artifact creature, to boot! Block constructed stars creatures that cost as much as ten mana to play. It's pretty awesome how Magic is able to change and adapt and stay interesting for so long.

In light of this, I thought I would take a look at some reprinted cards from the newly-released Ninth Edition set. Some of these cards are better than they used to be, some are not so much so.

Blinking Spirit -- This is an oldie but a goodie. Back in the old days, this was a card used primarily as a stalling creature in Blue/White control decks. In a format with cards like Balance and Icy Manipulator and several undercosted counterspells, this card could easily go the distance on its own. Nowadays, the undercosted counterspells are not the factor they once were, but the existence of Kamigawa block adds a completely new dimension to this creature. Many cards in Kamigawa block have abilities that trigger from a spirit coming into play that could be good with this card. A couple standouts include Haru-Onna, Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, and Sire of the Storm. The four casting cost is a steep price by today's standards for a 2/2 creature, but the ability to repeat spiritcraft triggers that do not require commiting multiple creatures to the board just might be enough to get this creature back into standard play.

Fellwar Stone -- This card was very playable from when it first came out, but eventually became less used as tournament magic sped up through sets like Tempest and Urza's Saga. Today, this kind of good mana acceleration and flexibility is likely to find a home in several Standard decks. The Mirrodin Talismans are played just for their acceleration capabilities in colors like Blue and White which usually do not get acceleration, and Fellwar Stone is a strong candidate to take their places. Thanks to the Pain Lands coming back in 9th, the mana fixing of Talismans isn't as important, so being able to have access to fast mana without pain could possibly get this back on the scene.

Horror of Horrors -- This card was not used in the old days as much because of the terrible wording, as it was simply because it stunk. The wording has gotten streamlined, but this effect is just not enough to make it into constructed play. In a black deck, you're usually not wanting your creatures to get into fights where regeneration would be a helpful addition.

Jade Statue -- Here's a card definitely seeing the effects of time. Many years ago, this was playable in large part because of the prevalence of control decks that liked to use Wrath of God and Balance to clean the board. Wrath of God is still around, but Balance is obviously long gone, and this card's playability is questionable, at best. It's not particularly efficient, being artifact in an environment with more artifact destruction than basic lands in some decks, and the decks are simply not built to incorporate this style of card. Why attack on turn four with a 3/6 when you can wait a turn and be sending in an 11/11 trampler or be going crazy with Kiki-Jiki and Sundering Titan? It's a nice blast from the past, but not likely to be winning any games soon.

Paladin En-vec -- Paladin En-vec is a card that White Weenie strategies absolutely love. It is reasonably costed and has a pile of free abilities on it. In the old days it was a must, and I don't see that changing a whole lot. The only problem with this creature is how it fits on the mana curve in a deck that loves to play two drops. However this could be to its benefit in fighting off a card like Celestial Kirin.

Shard Phoenix -- Now this is fascinating. This card was a potent part of an old strategy that used Forbid to lock up the game. Today, there's no Forbid, but this card could still see play. I'm not sure about right now, as Tooth and Nail doesn't even care about this card, but after Mirrodin rotates out, Shard Phoenix's ability to do two damage to all creatures could be more of a factor. However, I can see this being an important component in a Black/Red control deck of sorts. Imagine using this and Exile into Darkness in a deck with Mindslicer, for example.

Ninth Edition is a very cool set with a lot of fun new cards. Have fun exploring the past, and hopefully some "old-timers" will be able to take this chance to shine again!

Tim Stoltzfus
morefuncomics@gmail.com

 

 

 

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