Long time no see looters! I am finally back with another article after a long break from both writing and Magic. Needless to say, I have missed a few things while on my hiatus. Probably the biggest thing was the Battle for Zendikar pre-release. I wasn’t happy about it but I do have the opportunity to play it now which is great! The original Zendikar has a lot of fond memories for me and even one not so fond one. (Why did I have to pass that full art land!?!) It was right around the time when I was getting back into magic and thus acted as a stepping stone to where I am now. That got me thinking back even farther, all the way to my roots.
Picture a younger me in the 90s, fads coming out left and right. Pokémon, Yugioh, Bayblade; I fell for them all. One fad that snuck its way into my young life however, and it was a little card game called Magic: the Gathering (you may have heard of it). My first Magic cards I actually got by trading away a bag of chips. Coincidently, I got into a lot of the games I played when I was a kid by trading food. That being said, some of the fads lasted about as long as a bag of chips did. That being said I unfortunately, at least according to my current self, didn’t play Magic as long as I wanted to. Recently, while going through buried treasure hidden in the closet, I found my old cards but sadly the most valuable one remaining was a Skullclamp (thanks a lot younger me…). I did, however, get a rush of memories recollecting my first deck and comparing the mage that I used to be to the mage I am now.
I don’t know why, but white has always been my color. Even way back in the day I started training as a little young white mage (to a laymen this could sound really racist…). I first picked up the game around the original Mirrodin and ended up leaving about Kamigawa. I only know this because of that first deck of mine. There was a Friday Nights episode (a funny sketch show put on by Loading Ready Run) recently where all of the cast members instantly remembered their first deck and how they were the best decks ever. After finding and looking at their decks, they realized that their decks were bad. But who cares! What makes your first Magic deck great was the memories and the whimsy associated with slinging those old spells and beating your friends. It also helped that none of your friends were Pro Tour competitors so all the decks were fun and comparably awful to the now “adult you” standards of a good deck. So what cards were in my childhood best deck ever?
Well, I don’t actually have the same 60 card mono white deck that I still had when I was a kid, but who could forget the mono white working together deck! Back in the day, I loved the idea of using all of my little creatures to buff up and become huge forces to be reckoned with. The idea was simple. I would flood the battlefield with creatures that could all help each other get bigger and attack in for lots of damage. I added equipment and enchantments in order to further buff my armies of wimpy creatures. Using Angelic Page and Auriok Bladewarden, I would buff up my attacking creature to be stronger than any of the blockers they had. I believe my favorite creature to pump was Kabuto Moth because it had flying and it could also be used to pump some of my other creatures. Starting to see the theme? Just a bunch of little white creatures that, collectively, could power through my friends creatures. The rest of my creature base was other samurai and little white creatures that I liked. I believe I also had a Soul Warden in there because what little planeswalker doesn’t love life gain? My non-creature suite was pretty small because why would I put non-creatures in a creature deck? The two cards that I 100 percent remember having were a Vulshok Morning Star and Shelter. The first card, Vulshok Morning Star was for buffing up my creatures to pack a bigger punch and it also worked pretty well with Auriok Bladewarden. The second one, Shelter, was just a way to protect my creatures from any meddling spells and their stupid dogs. It would also be nothing that apparently, even my kid self knew the value of a cantrip. All of these cards came together to form the best deck on the playground! Granted, I may be a little biased…
So with all the fads passing, my return to magic, and a few years gone by: here we are. Decks have often come and gone in my collection. I have constructed and deconstructed countless EDH, Modern, Casual, Standard, and even Pauper decks throughout the years. Despite this fact, there is always one deck (well build I might add) that has still been sitting in the same Odyssey deck box that it was first thrown into. That’s right, you guessed it, my mono white deck. Granted, it has seen some changes and finally got some sleeves but I can never get myself to take it apart despite it being far from competitive. In its current form it is the deck I used to play with some of my more casual friends so it does serve a niche among my collection of decks. It is also much less about creatures buffing creatures now. It has become much more of a mono white equipment deck. And because who doesn’t like a deck list, here it is:
Well, there you have it! As you can see it is a bit different than the original deck I described above, however, it keeps to the same themes. It is still about pumping one creature up to be a big huge beater. The deck still has a few of the older cards like Shelter and a bunch of equipment. The theme of creatures working together is even still there except now it takes on more the form of Kor tribal. Some of the cards are in here just because I wanted to play with them, but they were never quite competitive. Path of Bravery and Gift of Immortality are the best examples of cards that were put in for that reason. This list here is not representative of all the changes I have made over the years as some have come and gone just like I am sure some of these cards will eventually be replaced. All I can say for certain is that this deck will never ever be taken apart.
I hope you all enjoyed walking down memory lane with me and I predict it will make you think about your Magic: the Gathering roots as well. If you take anything away from this article, it is that you should try to hold on to those memories as long as possible. Remember when you used to cast Suntail Hawk and fly over all those other big creatures your opponent had? Wow! Remember that really cool dragon you used to draw and it would allow you to take over the board and win the game? Awesome! Remember banding? Eeeeehhhh…..well you get the point. Magic is all about having fun. I still have a lot of fun playing and competing but the whimsy and wow factor can sometimes disappear. Try to hang on to that because it can improve your view of the game and even help you moving forward as you improve and play more. That being said, next time a sweet play is done, even if you are on the receiving end, try to look at it like that starry-eyed little kid who is going to be talking about it on the playground tomorrow.
Please feel free to comment on this article if you have any fun old magic stories or even just want to let me know what your first deck was. It will almost always be something fun and interesting. Also, let me know if you enjoyed this type of article as it was a bit different from any Magic article I have written thus far. Thanks for reading Looters and may your spells bring you victories. Until next time!
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter
If you look at most of the formats that are currently (except draft, but draft’s special), one thing you might notice is a sizable list of cards that are restricted associated with them. Today, I want to start off with talking about a couple of the cards that are currently banned. Then, we’ll take a look at why Wizards bans cards. Finally, we’ll wrap up withby talking about current events relating to bannings (namely talk of soon to be banned cards and cards that players have been calling for a banning of for a long time).
It’s interesting to go through and look at the various card restriction lists for the various formats, because of how much they change from format to format. There are cards that are eternally restricted in every format such as Black Lotus, some that are restricted in lower formats but open to play in higher formats such as Ancestral Vision, and some that are restricted in higher formats but open in lower formats such as Trinisphere. Let’s just look at some of these cards and try to understand why they were restricted when they were. First, let’s talk about the first restricted cards in Magic’s history, the cards that have stayed in this spot since 1994 are Shahrazad and the Ante cards. The reason for the banning of these cards was that Shahrazad often times made tournaments run way too long causing a series of games within a game. Ante cards made you ante or gamble cards against your opponent meaning that the game could no longer be played by kids and also allowed you to skirt the 60 card minimum to your deck if you ran 1 in your deck without playing ante. The other two cards on the original ban list were Time Vault, a card that has had its rules text changed more times than any other card in the game, and Divine Intervention simply due to it not seeming like a fun card for players (Tying games doesn’t really feel good). I’m sure there are some readers out there pointing out at this point that Standard doesn’t have a banned list, but that’s why I said that all formats, except for draft and sealed, have card restrictions, and this does hold true for Standard. Its card restriction list is all of the cards not currently in Standard. Let’s talk about some of the more modern card restriction lists. In modern, a couple of the cards that you have are Brainstorm and Ponder, Second Sunrise, Jace, the Mind sculptor, Skullclamp, and Mental Misstep. The first cards that we’re going to talk about are Brainstorm and Ponder. The banning for these two cards came after a modern season with a showing of Storm that was just too strong and fast for other decks to compete with. The field became almost untenable for other decks in the format and it wasn’t too long before Brainstorm and Ponder were on their way to being banned. The next card on my list is Second Sunrise, and as a player who’s played against the Eggs decklist in tournament, it’s a good fit for the modern banned list. The Eggs deck was just way too oppressive when it had its time in the sun. It was a deck that would take up an entire round worth of time to go off and was very hard for other players to respond to. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a strong card that finds itself a home in many Legacy, while Skullclamp is a card that was deemed too strong for even Legacy and found itself a banning in the format. These cards are banned for power level reasons; they just make certain decks far too powerful for other decks to compete with them. Understandably, the power level of the two is different, but both have the ability to completely warp the format. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has the ability to maintain a game state extremely efficiently, being able to both control your opponent’s draw, having the ability to remove creatures from the field, a draw engine and even having the ability to act as your win condition if you can maintain the board state well enough. It’s pretty obvious that this card is a great addition to control, but Skullclamp acts as the foil to this card making aggro decks completely warped. The idea behind why it breaks decks is that all deck archetypes are supposed to have some fundamental weakness built into the deck, and for agro decks, the weakness is that they run out of cards pretty frequently. Skullclamp is just too much of a fixer for this problem and breaks Modern aggro too much. It’s in the mindset of Wizards of the Coast that every deck archetype should have a weakness, and for aggro that weakness comes in the form of a very limited draw base, with decks running out of cards a lot to keep the deck balanced against other deck builds. This is exactly the problem Skullclamp fixes for those decks. Finally, there’s Mental Misstep, a card that is almost a hex against faster decks in the format and can be run in any deck for its phyrexian mana allowing decks to do things that they shouldn’t be able to do.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the more restricted cards in the game and why they’re restricted, we begin to see a few trends emerging from the whys of the various cards that are restricted. Magic is a game and the first reason that cards tend to get banned is for making the game un-fun for players, an excellent example of this is the card Second Sunrise. We mentioned the Eggs deck before, but just mentioning it doesn’t do just to the shear amount of pain that opponents would feel while playing against the deck. It was a combo that would take almost a whole round of time to go off and had your opponent just sitting there for a long period of time. The second reason that cards get banned is for the health of a particular format. Wizards of the Coast has long maintained that to keep the game fun there should be a variety of decks in a format, so that players may while still being competitive be able to use various decks. This can be seen through the cards Brainstorm and Ponder, cards that made one deck archetype far too powerful in the format, or through Jace, the Mind Sculptor, a card that made playlists that weren’t Blue control a hard deck to succeed with. The third major reason that cards get banned is if a card is so good that it can be run in any deck and does something that the deck shouldn’t be able to do. This principle can be seen though Mental Misstep, a card that found a home in almost the entire format before its banning. There is one more suspected principle, but we’ll examine its validity in the next section.
The last principle and one that I want to talk about before we talk about our first suspected future banned card. The principle of price is one that people always hint at when people guess at what are going to be banned next. The justification for this believed principle is that high price is something that bars individuals from entry into a format and this may in some way be hurting the health of a format. I personally disagree with this idea, because there will always be replacements for the “most expensive” cards, and banning these cards could cause general mistrust from the secondary market in Wizards of the Coast’s ability to maintain the prices of their products. Additionally, Wizards of the Coast (or more importantly in this case, Hasbro) is still a business and the ability to pump up their sales exponentially is to include 1 or 2 of these expensive cards in their set. Nonetheless, the first cards that everyone always tries to shove onto this list are the fetch lands. I doubt that this will happen as Wizards just released a set chock full of these cards, and players have the ability to pick up any number of them at less than $20 a card, and I feel that this is the best way to deal with cards that are “too expensive”. As a player, I feel that banning these cards would be inherently bad for the game and hurt it in ways that many of us may never understand. The cards changed the game forever when they were printed, allowing 3 to 5 color decks to be run in multiple formats (even if they’re still rarer), and allowing 2 color decks to become far more consistent than they would be otherwise. On top of the various consistent decks that these cards bring to the table, they also bring advantages to mono-colored decks and have hidden cards that they combo with that just add to the complexities of the card. All of this basically means is that while these cards are very powerful cards that have far-reaching effects on the game, and a price tag to match, they also contribute much to the health of the game and as such I hope that they do not earn themselves a banning or restriction at any point in the near future. It looks like Wizards of the Coast is going to answer my hopes with exactly what I want also, as a reboot of Zendikar is right around the corner (supposedly with a reprint of the enemy fetches) and with the ally fetch lands just being printed in Khans of Tarkir. Tarmogoyf is a card that falls perfectly in line with the fetch lands; it works well in combination with them and falls into an even higher price gap than the fetch lands. Same as the fetches though, it looks like Wizards Is more than happy to reprint this card and I’m even looking forward to seeing another iteration of it in Modern Masters II that is supposed to be happening at some point in the near future. The other 3 cards that are supposedly on the chopping block are Jeskai Ascendancy, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time. Dig Through Time has been making a powerful showing and has made appearances in decks throughout the Modern format. It does help control and combo decks quite a bit, but having played against it, I like the fact that its ability can’t be played too early and acts as a foil to cards like Snapcaster Mage, and Past in Flames that typically want to keep cards in the yard. The card is a strong contender for sure, but I feel that it hasn’t quite earned itself a banning even with it being so good. Treasure Cruise is in a different boat, while Dig Through Time has made a strong showing in Modern, Treasure Cruise has made a strong showing in all formats. If we look at history, Wizards doesn’t like players drawing 3 cards off of 1 card and for good reason, just look at Brainstorm. The card is powerful, and while like its counterpart Dig Through Time, I’m not sure letting this card run free is such a good idea. Still, whether it gets banned or not a year or two from now, I don’t see it getting banned in the immediate future. The last card we have to talk about is Jeskai Ascendancy, this is a card that I absolutely loved when I first saw it, thought that if someone figured it out it would be broken and it is.
This deck has been boasting an impressive, consistent turn 2 or 3 win rate. The basic idea of the deck is to get Jeskai Ascendancy and a mana producer such as Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, or Sylvan Carytid online, and then just win. The mana producers not only play well into the combo, but can also act as an accelerant for your deck. The land-base needs to be straight-forward for the deck, either being fetches, lands that tap for any colors, lands that count as green (for the mana-producers) and one of the colors for Jeskai Ascendancy. Most of the sorceries and instants in the deck are just draw for your deck, with the instants pulling double duties for cool creature effects like haste or untap and also mana acceleration with the Ascendancy and some creatures. The Ascendancy also acts as a filtering engine on top of its untap ability, allowing you more filtering power. The biggest piece of secret tech for this deck is the Glittering Wish, it can count as an answer to a question you didn’t even know you had to answer, counts as 4 extra Jeskai Ascendancy’s in your deck, and in this decklist is also your only way to access your win condition. In the board are mostly targets for Glittering Wish, the only other 2 cards in the board besides these solutions are Leyline of Sanctity, a solution to a lot of decks including the deck I currently use in Modern, and Swan Song, because it’s a pretty good solution to control. The question is, is this deck too good for Modern? My answer is yes, probably. Combos like this are of the speed and consistency of Affinity, and unless we are about to enjoy a season that will see a ton of unbannings, we are about to see a Modern season that will see at least a banning. So that brings the next question, will Jeskai Ascendancy see banning? My answer to this question is almost an affirmative no. We can look at the history of the ban list for proof. When Wizards thought Jund was too powerful for Modern did they ban Tarmogoyf? No, they banned Bloodbraid Elf. What about when they thought Affinity too powerful, a banning of Cranial Plating or even Arcbound Ravager? Nope, let’s ban artifact lands and Disciple of the Vault… to be fair banning Disciple of the Vault is probably more relevant to the deck than the rest of the cards, but still. It can be shown that pretty consistently if Wizards thinks that a deck is too powerful, they will ban a card that is typically used as a major piece of the deck without getting rid of the engine that allows the deck to function. Another quality that these cards should possess is the fact that the card is run almost exclusively in the deck and a banning won’t affect other decks too much. There is a card in the deck that fits the bill on all of these and that is Glittering Wish. Through the banning of this card the consistency of win for the deck would drop and even the deck’s ability to find its combo would be hampered. Additionally, this card is one that doesn’t see that much play in the format besides this deck.
In today’s article, we took a look at the modern banned list. What it takes to get on it, some of the cards that are on it and why they’re there, and some potential future additions to the list. In our next article we’ll aim to look at what makes a good card store, a good card store.
By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter
Prerelease Events: June 13-16, 2014 Magic Online Release Date: June 16, 2014 MSRP: $6.99 (per deck) Vintage Masters is a set that will be similar in size to Modern Masters, available only in Magic Online. Vintage Masters will be a non-redeemable set available only in Magic Online in 15-card booster packs. Vintage Masters booster packs will retail for the MSRP of $6.99, and each pack will contain the following: