I can remember seeing Demonic Tutor for the first time. No, not this last year when some 30-year-old player leaned over my shoulder and said, “Hey kid, have you ever seen this card?” I mean I remember seeing that gem of a card for the first time in a deck someone had just made out of their freshly busted Revised Edition™ starter deck. You know, when they were called starter decks instead of tournament packs.
Hmmph…sadly, I guess that makes me the 30-year-old player that leans over your shoulder and asks, “Hey kid, have you ever seen this card?” That has been a third of my life ago, and it has gone by way too fast for me to enjoy everything I want to try and have a go at. Still, Magic: The Gathering® has been my one ever-present outlet for relaxation and entertainment since I was introduced to it. I got into Magic over 10 years ago, when Antiquities® was first released. With all my friends being hardcore Dungeons & Dragons as well as tabletop miniature gamers, this new card game proved to be a tough sell to my gaming group of buddies. They wanted nothing to do with such a “simple”, little game. Yet we played other card games and non-roleplaying games of the day, so I never quite understood their arguments against trying Magic. In reality, the packaging of the product probably wasn’t inviting enough. Let’s be honest. If you’ve ever seen Unlimited Edition™ and Revised Edition starter deck boxes, they look fairly plain and, shall we say, “second rate”?
My first sighting of Magic: The Gathering was witnessing several con-goers playing this cool, new card game in 1994 at CoastCon, a yearly Mecca for some on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The fantasy element was definitely appealing, but what really intrigued me was how they just sat down, broke out two small decks of cards, battled it out in less than half an hour, and then picked up and moved on to go play in their Dungeons & Dragons game when the remainder of their friends were ready. Not to mention the intense amount of fun and entertainment they obviously had playing the game. During the course of the convention, I saw several more groups of people turning these fascinating cards sideways and telling their opponents that they were casting all sorts of mystical spells and summoning all kinds of imaginary creatures to fight their battles with. Determined to convince my friends to try this new pastime, I browsed around the dealers at the convention. I located only one dealer who had any product remaining.
Can you say hot, new game? That should have been my first clue to just how good this game was, but you know…hindsight and all.
This dealer had two Unlimited Edition starter decks. My most easily influenceable friend, Jay Mabry, eagerly followed my advice and purchased one. I picked up the other to buy it, but was short a quarter unless I broke a large bill (and we all know what happens to a large bill once you break that darn thing). Being the kind gentleman he was, the dealer wouldn’t come down twenty-five cents on the price…even though I had already bought several items from him during the course of the convention already. I justifiably scoffed in disgust, set down the box, and walked away from the unappreciative jerk.
We all know what that means, right? Obviously, that starter deck had at least one of the Power Nine in it, heck, probably multiples. There is no doubt in my mind that was indeed the case. No doubt at all. At least it makes for a better story if I continue to believe it did. But we all know it’s true. To the lucky person that walked up behind me and had the loose quarter I was shy, I say, “Gimme’ my cards ya’ thief!”
Since I didn’t buy any of the magical cards, my buddy didn’t even bother to open his starter deck. We figured we would just buy some and play once the game made its way to Hattiesburg, MS. Sooooooo, several months later as I was making a purchase at our local hobby shop, I saw it. The game had finally made it to us. I had almost forgotten about it at this point. It was strange though. They didn’t have any starter decks. All they had were these “booster” packs that said Antiquities on them. I asked if it was the same game and the old folks behind the counter said, “Yep.” So I grabbed a small handful, six to be exact, and went on my way. I cracked them open once I got home, and attempted to teach myself this “simple”, little game.
Well, it didn’t take long at all before I concluded that I had absolutely no idea what in the world was going on. I had no rulebook to go by and I certainly did not understand what the fireball or broccoli next to the numbers in the top, right-hand corner had to do with anything. And this was 1994 people. Wizards of the Coast did not have a learn center website that I could just hop onto…heck…I didn’t even have a PC at home at the time, let alone know what the Internet was.
The Hobby Center to the rescue! We sprinted back up to the old folk’s home in the Mini-Panzer.
-My best friend, Ryan Daniels, had an old Toyota Correlica* as his first car. It was small, rust-colored, solid tin, and made its own gas. We affectionately nicknamed it the Mini-Panzer. I swear he only filled up that little armored car’s 12-gallon tank about once every 5 months.-
The old folks had just what we needed: this small, brown “Magic Players Handbook”. It explained the rules, though Interrupts were beyond confusing. It threw out alternate play formats, including the soon to be our new obsession, multi-player. It also had a complete card list of the base set.
“Ooooooh, Wrath of God…I bet that’s cool!”, I remember saying.
“Yeah, bad things are a certainty when you anger a Deity!” others chimed in.
I sat down and studied the rules, as was my assigned duty amongst our group of adventurers. We then took the few cards we had, shuffled them up, and all played from the same deck. Needless to say, we never cast a single colored card that game, as Urza’s lands did not help out that strategy at all. I seem to remember a Clay Statue going all the way for the win. I was immediately hooked. I had to have more cards, but no one around here had any product left. We quickly began to agonize over the lack of availability this game had, and almost gave up all hopes of ever expanding our meager card pool.
Eventually, The Hobby Center got a box of Revised Edition starter decks, as well as a box of booster packs. They called us with the good news since we had been pestering them constantly. Ryan and I zoomed up to the shop as quickly as the Mini-Panzer would take us. I wanted to buy several starter decks, but because of the high demand from other customers at the time, I was limited to only being able to purchase one. This forced me to purchase three booster packs (also maxing out to my allowed limit). I made my purchase and we headed back home. I opened the starter deck, and there within lay the ultimate power! I remember thinking, how can anything be better than this? If I can just get this into play I will surely kill everyone in a fiery, roaring death swoop!! I couldn’t believe the power before me. Shivan Dragon was going to rule the world at our gaming table!
That’s right, one dragon to rule them all. Problem was, I never could draw him out of my 75-card deck. Hey, don’t laugh…that was advanced strategy at the time. Ryan and CJ (CJ is a person for several other amusing tales some other time) played with all of their cards. Yet somehow, CJ always bent and curved the laws of averages to his will, finding his one Thicket Basilisk, one Lure, and one Regeneration. This scientific odd-bending phenomenon is referred to as The Principle of One in CJ. It took several weeks for me to get all my other friends to play this game, but once it caught on, we all but abandoned our other games. Soon we were getting together playing multi-player games with all six or more of us. Then one night we went over to Jay’s house to play. He had yet to play with us, and still had his Unlimited Edition starter deck lying about unopened. Now keep in mind, we still had not been able to purchase many more cards as they were extremely hard to come by around here, so there were still a lot of cards we had not seen. With that in mind, Jay opened up the first two-card combo ever! Of course, no one knew it until it was too late and he had it in play.
“Okay John, I’ll tap your big, bad Shivan Dragon with this glowing ball.”
What is that called? Icy Manipulator? That is cool art Jay. Want to trade it?”
“I’ll give you this tapped Shivan Dragon.”
It was then he did it. Our first two-card combo………………………………….
“Now this old man with a butter knife is going to kill your big, bad, tapped, non-trading dragon.”
It was beautiful! Icy Manipulator and Royal Assassin! A two-card combo that killed any creature. That was power! Odd how the Timetwister he cast a few turns later didn’t seem nearly as powerful. So what if I drew a new hand?! He could keep me at bay forever with that old man and his shiny, little ball.
And he would never go away. Lightning Bolt it, and he’d Raise Dead the old man. Fireball him, and he’d Unsummon him. And that David Bowie Labyrinth toy would never get destroyed either. Shatter it, and he’d inevitably have the Counterspell ready. Disenchant it, and he’d have the Spell Blast to thwart your plans. It took everyone at the table to kill him, and Jay made our creatures pay the price!
Jay was also now hooked and soon got his grimy, little hands on four Royal Assassins…the savage cheater. Try as he might, he could never find anyone locally that had another Icy Manipulator for trade, so Twiddle it was for him. It took him until next CoastCon to grab these and complete his Royal Assassin, Icy Manipulator, Psychic Venom monstrosity. Ah, the good, old days of deck construction. Bad decks at their best.
Now it’s over 10 years later, and I still see most of those close friends from those days. Heck, I eat lunch with Ryan almost every day, though the Mini-Panzer has long since been retired, and unnatural scientific odds still obey CJ’s every command. Sadly, Jay has all but disappeared from the face of the earth. How he always winds up with a woman who keeps him under lock and key is beyond me. I could never be in a relationship that doesn’t allow me to enjoy being myself. Don’t get me wrong. Relationships are good things, and you will have to meet the middle grounds more than you care to at times to make it a good one, but if you have to change your interests to be with a person, then that is the wrong person for you.
I can occasionally still get many of my long-time buddies to play casually when I can rustle them together; yet, they all have to rely on me to supply the cards. All of them have since “gotten out” of Magic. A shame too, since one friend in particular, Heath Holcomb, had an amazing collection. I once saw him buy a full set of Arabian Nights® for a hundred dollars! And I remember him wondering if that was a good deal at the time?!? And the punk didn’t even sell his collection to me when he got out. The shame…the shame. CJ still comes around and helps me draft boxes of new cards when they come out and will occasionally show up to Friday Night Magic for Limited events to confuse the newer, younger crowd with his card selection (yet, he beats many of them much more than he loses).
I’ve yet to take a lull in playing and collecting Magic: The Gathering, so they all have played it vicariously through me over the years. I’m sure I get on their nerves from time to time, talking about the game almost religiously, but they realize that it is a part of my life that I still very much enjoy. Ryan is a true friend for putting up with my tournament rants during our rounds of golf. Nothing, and I mean nothing blows off steam from a bad PTQ like eighteen holes and a good rant! I imagine I probably will continue to drivel on about cards for as long as the game is made. But at least I return the favor and listen to his rants about the Denver Broncos when they lose.
My beautiful, intelligent, and phenomenal fiancée, Simeon, has learned to deal with my never-ending hobby. Though I may never get her to play regularly, she has at least tried it. Not too many of us Magic-obsessed maniacs can claim this feat. She has learned to enjoy looking at and showing off her small card collection to her “non-magical” friends. She has been eyeballing the art since Onslaught™ hit the shelves, but it was not until Mirrodin®, when I splashed Silver Myr as my PC wallpaper that she decided to start gathering pieces she liked.
Awww, he looks so lonely,” was the comment that fully launched her interest, instantly having me refer to her as Lady Myr. She naturally followed with, “Do you have any more of these cute, little Myrs so Silver won’t be all by himself?”
She currently has all five mana Myrs**, Frogmite, Spore Frog, Aura Fracture, Emerald Dragonfly (one of the first things I ever gave her…yep…Magic Dork at his finest), Calming Verse, Patrol Hound (she absolutely loves the flavor text), Bear Cub, all five Kirin, Vile Deacon, and Festival autographed by the artist “To the Queen”.*** I guess I should try to put together a deck that uses these cards and keep it together in honor of my soon to be wife, but I don’t even have a clue what exactly to try and do with this deck. If anyone has any ideas, throw them my way. If you can include fairies in the deck, then you score bonus point with Lady Myr. In a way, I think she looks at the Myr as her magical pets. While they don’t get the same attention our two cats, Shelby and Syler, do, they hold a special mission whenever I go out of town for the weekend to compete in a PTQ. They come out of their metallic, pink Rook capsule and watch over Simeon and send good luck my way. At least that’s what Simeon says. I get the impression these few cards will not be the end of her collection. She keeps hinting I should somehow get her a piece of the amazing three-dimensional cards showcased at last year’s World Championships.
Since Mirrodin, I have gone through Kamigawa™ block and am now knee deep into Ravnica: City of Guilds™ cards, and Simeon has been right there over my shoulder so to speak, looking at the art and scooping the items from me that she wants to add to her Magic treasures within her shiny, pink, card vault. I’m just happy that my greatest friend ever can find some enjoyment in the one passion that has not changed for me in the last decade…my love for this young and intriguing game we all call Magic: The Gathering. And I hope she truly realizes that my passion for her will endure and grow far beyond what it could ever be for this game.
I remember my friend, Greg Brown, casting this spell for the first time amongst our group. It went something like this:
“Swamp, tap it for black mana and cast Dark Ritual. Muwahahaha!!!...Another Dark Ritual…”
“Slow down partner.”
“Hell waits for no one loser! Demonic Tutor. I’ll get Hypnotic Specter and cast it.”
We were in awe! How could anyone beat that?!? Hypnotic Specter for the win. Looks like Magic has come full circle.
Catch ya’ll next time,
John H. Klauk
Klaukwork Wizard on Magic: The Gathering Online
*Corolla or Celica. I can’t for the life of me remember which it was. Sigh…I am getting older, obviously, as old man syndrome begins to disrupt my memory.
**A special thanks to the dealer in Atlanta for the Ravnica Pre-Release who actually had the foil mana Myrs. Simeon sends her love.
***Simeon was Queen of the Crewe of Zeus one year. For the uninitiated, that is a group that participates in Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year. How many of you can say you have a queen for a wife? I know…I am beyond lucky.