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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 

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This Space For Rent

The Southwestern Paladin

Star Wars Themed Magic Cards
When Will The Best Card Game/Movie Franchises Come Together?
by Jeff Zandi
5.20.05

A long time ago in a little country town far, far away, thirteen year old Jeff Zandi and his best pal Kent went to movies together to see Star Wars.

Yesterday, in Dallas, forty-year old Jeff Zandi and his pal Kent returned to the movies to see Revenge of the Sith. When it comes to Star Wars movies, I’ve been there since the beginning. Similarly, a gamer named Jeff Zandi was shopping for a new set of dice and selling old Dungeons and Dragons books at Origins 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, the first place that Magic: the Gathering was ever sold. When it comes to the best collectible card game of all time, I have also been there since the beginning. Yesterday, I thrilled to the latest (and maybe last) Star Wars movie. It might be the best one ever.

Tomorrow, I will be head judge at a pre-release for Magic’s newest expansion, Saviors of Kamigawa. Revenge of the Sith may very simply make Star Wars the greatest and most popular movie franchise of all time. Magic: the Gathering has out-survived all competitors as the number one card game of all time (apologies to poker and bridge).

Wouldn’t it be to tap two white mana and drop Luke Skywalker (Creature – Legendary Jedi Knight) into play. On the next turn, you might pay one colorless to play an equipment artifact called light saber and then spend a couple of mana to equip up your Legendary Jedi Knight before attacking with him. Wouldn’t you like to perform the classic Magic “Jedi Mind Trick” on your opponent while actually holding an instant spell in your hand literally titled Jedi Mind Trick? I know I would. I want to pay 2GG and play a 3/3 Wookie.

Why haven’t these two great expressions of creativity come together? In 1977, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ran these commercials where some dude was so loving the chocolate candy bar that he was eating that he would accidentally crash right into some similarly-addicted peanut butter maven. One of these geniuses would say, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” The other guy would say, “YOU got chocolate in my peanut butter!” After thoroughly stating the obvious, each person would taste the chocolate/peanut butter combination and nod at each other happily while making what Mel Brooks once described as “yummy sounds”. When it comes to Magic and Star Wars, many people has wondered, as I have, at why we have never had the opportunity to find out if these two great tastes taste great together.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF STAR WARS CARD GAMES

In case you didn’t know, there have been a few Star Wars collectible card games already. Back in December of 1995, Decipher published Star Wars: the Customizable Card Game. The cards were very good looking. Game play?

Snoresville! To play, you either played a deck composed of either light side (good guys) or dark side (bad guys). In tournament play, each player would bring both a good guy and a bad guy deck and take turns playing each. The game was popular, in its time, and was considered a fun to play game. The good-looking cards were very collectible. A pair of expansions followed the first release, but the game more or less rumbled to a stop after just a couple of years. Apparently, Decipher retained the Star Wars card game license for some time after that, because they went on to release two other Star Wars-themed card games. Well, licenses don’t last forever, and now that world toy leader Hasbro is behind Wizards of the Coast, you gotta think there’s a way to put the twin juggernauts of Star Wars and Magic together.

HOW IT WOULD WORK

Folks, when I talk about putting Magic and Star Wars together, I’m not kidding around. I don’t mean that Wizards should produce some original card game using the Star Wars license that might or might not be as playable and enjoyable as Magic: the Gathering. No sir. I would produce several sets (one large set and two smaller sets jumps to mind…) of Star Wars-themed Magic cards. The set I would create would have the amazing flavor and graphic excitement of everyone’s favorite space fantasy with the proven one-of-a-kind world’s favorite collectible card game.

Different card backs? I suppose, in order to make the Star Wars-themed game a little more distinctive from the fictional milieu of Magic: the Gathering.
You know, Wizards once thought of producing Magic cards with different backs that could still be played together. In fact, it was one of the FIRST things they thought of more than ten years ago. For those that don’t know, Arabian Nights, Magic’s very first expansion set, was almost produced with different backs. It has been considered extremely important that Wizards decided that for the cards to be played together, the backs of the cards needed to remain identical between all the various Magic card products. Today, however, with a wide range of opaque card sleeves (they’re only opaque on one side, clear on the other side for enhanced playability!) available and popular with competitive players, there really is no problem playing Magic with cards with different backs.

The cards I would produce would feature the visual flair, story continuity and overall flavor of the Star Wars universe, but the game play would be pure Magic. Creatures in the game would have abilities already familiar to Magic players like Haste, First Strike, Flying, and so on. Cards would still be divided between lands, artifacts and the five colors of Magic.

From an artistic perspective, a Star Wars Magic expansion would probably be a lot more beautiful with the use of original artwork. However, cost considerations, as well as the desire of Star Wars fans to see the images most familiar to them, would probably result in the use of photos from the movies in the card art.

PRO’S AND CONS

Well, I think it might be best to look at the negatives first. Some of these are exactly the reasons that my dream of Star Wars-themed Magic cards has not happened already.

First of all, there is the license issue. The license for Star Wars cards would have to be available for Wizards of the Coast to purchase or lease or whatever. If there is no license available, or Lucasfilms just doesn’t feel like issuing this license, then the project would be a no go. Even if the license were available, Wizards of the Coast might decide that paying money (maybe A LOT of money) to secure the license would be too high an expense to add to the risk inherent in producing a new card set (or sets).

One issue that many people at Wizards as well as many Magic fans would consider as extremely important is the issue of story flavor. From the beginning, Magic was meant to exist in a fictional world completely created by Wizards of the Coast, the world of Dominaria. Even Wizards would admit that Magic’s original back story has grown into a very large world indeed.
However, there are also many of us who love the game of Magic but feel nothing special whatsoever for the fictional realm used for the game. There have been many times in the past ten years when I watched as Wizards of the Coast pour real resources into a back story for Magic that frankly, I could care less about. In my opinion, Magic is successful because it’s an incredible game, not at all because of the fictional world in which the game is supposedly taking place. Let’s put it another way: on a scale of one to ten, I believe Magic’s value as an original game concept is a TEN…the fictional back story of Magic, on the same scale, is a five AT BEST.

If you would like to see a Star Wars-themed Magic expansion, here are a few reasons it can and should happen.

Hasbro is a giant toy company, Hasbro owns Wizards. Hasbro can go and GET the license for Star Wars. This summer would be a pretty good time to do that. Revenge of the Sith will be the biggest movie in theaters all summer long. Magic sales, as good as they have been, could use the giant boost that they could receive in the future from sales of Star Wars-themed Magic cards. In the end, there may be no more important reason that such a project could actually happen than the idea that large sums of money can be made.

Ten years ago, there were literally dozens of card games that followed closely on the heels of Magic from competing companies as well known as Parker Brothers and Topps. Today, Wizards of the Coast stands alone at the top of the collectible card game mountain. Market dominance makes it more possible than ever for Wizards to use a known license like Star Wars to expand their power.

With a REALLY open-minded research and development team, Wizards could produce Star Wars-themed Magic cards for just one year. Using the current development calendar, one could imagine a Star Wars themed block of three sets including one large set released in September followed by small sets in the following February and May. Just as 2004-2005 was the year of the Kamigawa block, 2006-2007 could be the year of the Star Wars block. An approach like this could reduce license fees by only printing cards for an expensive franchise like Star Wars for a single year. Negative effects on the game of Magic as a whole, if there are any, would be minimized since only a single year of Magic releases would be affected.

If a Star Wars-themed Magic set were as popular as I think it would be, the door would be flung open to creating Magic sets flavored by other interesting franchises as diverse as Lord of the Rings all the way to The Simpsons.

Of course, I’m always interested in hearing what YOU think.

P.S. Twenty-eight years ago, my best friend Kent Parish and I made a bet with George Lucas (I guess we never really let George in on our bet) that Kent could go through puberty, make a woman fall in love with him, marry her, have a baby with that woman and raise that child through high school graduation before George Lucas could make six Star Wars movies. Revenge of the Sith came out yesterday, May 19th, fully ten days before Kent’s oldest boy Michael will graduate from high school. Kent gave it a good shot, but George Lucas wins again.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
zanman@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online


 

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