Throwing Back, Ferally

Posted in Serious Fun on November 30, 2004

By Anthony Alongi

A walk down memory lane

During "Throwback Week," it would be silly not to include this little fellow somewhere along the way:

Feral Throwback

Just about every aspect of this card has something about it that makes me nostalgic for some aspect of Magic: the Gathering. I'm not normally a "Golden Ages" kind of guy -- I think the game has gotten better with time, though I'm especially fond of Invasion block -- but I do enjoy spending some time thinking about how I evolved as a player, and some of the cards and mechanics that helped me along the way.

Which brings us back to the Throwback. Let's break this fellow down into six throwback-worthy aspects:

1) It's a green card.

While not itself a constructed powerhouse, the Feral Throwback is a high-profile, interesting card for green in Legions. Onslaught block was a different time for green than in most years past. Many Magic players who were around five years ago recall the fine writing by Jamie Wakefield, his quest for the Pro Tour, his dinosaur tokens, and above all…his deep love for green. Mr. Wakefield deserves a moment of gratitude during any "Throwback Week" that involves Magic and the Internet.

Of course, by the time Feral Throwback came along, green was finally seeing the game come its way, after years as Magic's forgotten color. Wild Mongrel, Seedborn Muse, Roar of the Wurm, Fifth Dawn's emphasis on green as a base for five-color decks, and now Sakura-Tribe Elder, green has gotten a great deal of attention from Wizards lately. Since most casual players enjoy a good green stampede, we should take a moment to celebrate. Like the Red Sox World Series victory this year, it means a lot more because it was so long in coming.

2) It's too expensive for what it does.

The lesson every new Magic player needs to learn is that some cards are skill-testers. Feral Throwback, while a limited bomb and potentially interesting in a casual beast-driven deck, never got as much play as I would have liked because it cost instead of .

Other "throwbacks" you can get for 4CC

Consider what other colors have gotten for 4CC in the past. Red turns to the original firebreather, Shivan Dragon. Blue gets Mahamoti Djinn.

Those are classic creatures, the sort that players who've "been around since The Dark" speak of in hushed tones. Newer kids on the block freak out when they get their first.

Feral Throwback will never get there. After all, green is the color of creatures, and some creatures (Multani, Maro-Sorcerer; Rhox; Kamahl, Fist of Krosa) will be better than others (Brontotherium, Needleshot Gourna, Feral Throwback). It's not that the second set is bad -- just victim to the necessary practice of keeping the game's power level in check.

3) It's a beast, at a time when beasts finally got their due.

Before Onslaught block, there was such a thing as "Tribal Nights" at local stores and within casual groups. Players would focus their decks around a creature type and see what happened. Sliver decks were popular, and elf and goblin decks were good. (They always were, I suppose.) Building a soldier deck was pretty clever. But Real Players went above and beyond. Real Players found the unexplored corners of the tribal world.

Real Players built beast decks. Before Onslaught, that meant Fylamarid-Scragnoth combos. It meant decks with Darba and Hunting Moa, with Laccolith Titan and Mawcor. It meant remembering Crater Hellion was a beast, and rejoicing because you'd actually have a board sweeper in there.

There probably still is the occasional Tribal Night, and there are probably still beast decks played now. But it's not nearly the stunt it used to be. Not necessarily a bad thing -- my blue-green-red beast deck is now one of my oldest standing decks, and you can bet it has Wirewood Savages and Contested Cliffs -- just different.

Solitary Confinement

4. The amplify, combined with casting cost, actually encourages you to play incredibly expensive decks.

Who doesn't remember playing overexpensive decks? Heck, I've been playing this game for years and I still have one I can't resist. It's chock full of Form of the Dragon, Platinum Angel, Mind's Eye, and now Reverse the Sands. The inexpensive spells, like Fiery Temper, are best held until after Solitary Confinement comes out. Of course, Solitary Confinement shouldn't really come out until after you have Form of the Dragon out -- and preferably not until after you have Form AND a Platinum Angel out. So it may as well cost .

Anyway, Land Tax is really, really important to that deck. It does like to go last in turn order. Yup, nothing like an overexpensive deck that hangs at five life, begs for board sweepers, and makes you feel like you ought to go last. And that's what Feral Throwback's all about, isn't it?

Of course, the Throwback could simply be encouraging you not to overextend and to hold some of your smaller beasts back in your hand -- but that's less exciting a notion.

5. Provoke is just plain cool, and deserves to return as a "classic" mechanic.

I like it in green -- creature-based removal makes the most sense in the color devoted most strongly to creatures. Of course, provoke is based on Lure, and Lure does return now and again -- most notably in Matsu-Tribe Decoy, which can actually win you games.

Wizards appears to be letting provoke back in now and again on specific cards, which is cool. I also wouldn't mind seeing the mechanic return more forcefully -- maybe just within green, or maybe across colors again like Legions did. It just forced some of the more entertaining (and complex) combat decisions I've seen in Magic.

Bog Raiders

6. Carl Critchlow is easily one of the best artists in Magic history.

You will all share your opinions on this, no doubt -- but for my money, Mr. Critchlow brings the most complete package. He's got distinctive style, nice attention to detail, and more often than not a little edge to the art (see: Urza's Saga version of Bog Raiders). He's also flexible enough to do more traditional styles (see: Call of the Herd) or even a little throwback action of his own (see: Onslaught version of Clone).

So if any of you are wondering what to get me for Christmas…original Critchlow artwork would be lovely. Qumulox or Arcbound Ravager would look lovely in the study.

I encourage readers to share their own favorite memories of casual Magic on the message boards.

Anthony cannot provide deck help. He does, however, fondly recall days past when entertaining deck requests wouldn't completely consume his time and energy.

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