Decks aren’t always what they seem. To be certain, you can gain a very good understanding of a deck by breaking it apart and examining the 60 cards that comprise it, but that doesn’t necessarily give you the full understanding of how everything fits together. Candidly, Hope’s Crusaders was the deck I was least enthused about, seeming like a White Weenie deck with a hodgepodge of- surprise- White Weenies. Jimi and I sat down to play last night- she’d selected Reality Fracture to oppose the deck with- and played our ‘friendly.’
The friendly is the first game we play when we begin our reviews. We roll our spindowns to see who has first option for play or draw, then play a match whose results we don’t record. This gives us time to see the deck once, note some of its themes and interactions, and to get a sense of what we’re up against. The friendly has no real affect on our review, aside from both giving us further insight and observation to bring into our writeup, and to determine who chooses play/draw for the start of our first recorded match.
Although we had to break for the night after our friendly (fussy baby), we finished the matches today. Despite my early misgivings, the deck took me entirely by surprise in the friendly, an impression which would only be further reinforced in the matches. Here are the notes from the playtest.
Late Summer, 1993.
After spending a little extra time in Burlington, one of my best mates- Pat- returns home on college break, and he’s got something new to show us. We’ve all been part of the same Dungeons and Dragons gaming group for years, and this new fantasy-themed collectible card game, “Magic: the Gathering,” is an instant hit. We sit on the floor for hours upon hours, casting Craw Wurms and Drudge Skeletons, hurling Fireballs and healing up with Streams of Life. Black Vises come down, and creatures get boosted with Blessing. As it happens, the mall’s gaming shop has a box of booster packs for sale, and soon we’re oohing-and-ahhing over exotic and dangerous additions like the Royal Assassin and Mana Short. Someone gets hit with a brutal Mind Twist, and we crowd around the card reading it over. True to form, we keep our new cards secret from each other, reveling in the look on our hapless opponent’s face as we play our nastiest surprises. There’s no collected list of every card- no Player’s Guide, no Gatherer- so the only limit to what’s in those booster packs is our imagination.
I quickly develop a taste for a hundred-card fortress-style Blue/White deck, which hides behind Circles of Protection and cards like Veteran Bodyguard and Karma, sending over a Phantom Monster or Air Elemental for damage. I’m absolutely hooked, and we spend countless hours playing and discussing the game. Arabian Nights, Antiquities, the impossible-to-find Legends… Those were wonderful days. After Legends I’d move away and abandon the game, but the memories would stay with me forever.
Indeed, the game had made such an impression that I would return before long with 1997’s Visions, retiring again in ’99 at the end of Urza Block. A decade later, looking for a new hobby that wasn’t so isolating as World of Warcraft, I dropped into my local gaming store and on a whim bought some Zendikar. The rest, as they say, is history.