By Sean Morse

The four 27-liter Sterilite containers are stacked inconspicuously in the upstairs guest room closet. The one on top reads (in my mother’s nearly illegible scrawl) “TROPHIES.” This box is absurdly heavy. The next box down reads “BASEBALL CARDS.” I cast that aside. Beneath that is what I’ve been looking for: “SEAN—MAGIC.” My mother’s propensity for saving everything that could conceivably have value (either monetary or nostalgic) pays off.

I drag it out of the closet, onto the bed, and crack the lid.

Jade Edition? Is that the Juggernaut in the lower right? Those aren’t the backs of Magic cards. Is that Star Wars? What the hell is in here?

The first step is obvious. Undoubtedly, that baseball card binder is full of Force of Wills, Wastelands, maybe those Chronicle versions of Erhnam Djinn


Apparently, I had a binder full of Legend of the Five Rings, the Collectible Card Game. I can’t even remember playing a single match of this game. I suppose I must have been enticed by the theme and the prospect of (and this strikes me as terribly cool) affecting the game’s storyline: In the LOT5R world, real-world tournament results affect the game’s ongoing narrative. Whatever the case, I own a rather hefty binder of Legend of the Five Rings cards. As an aside: I now have for sale a rather hefty binder of Legend of the Five Rings cards.

Digging deeper.


This gem. I’m relatively certain this was a birthday gift. The glossary informs us that decks have a “Creature Defense Capacity—This is the ability of a card or deck to defend against creatures.” Chaos Orb is, in fact, one of the best cards in the game (the argument isn’t unconvincing: “If you are skilled at dropping it […] it provides the elements of enchantment, creature, artifact, and land destruction all at once.” However, an effective counter is to “carry magnetic boards or tape […] to tournaments and stick […] cards to walls”).

The hits just keep on coming.


In the midst of Tempest block, I was playing a five-color green Tradewind Rider control deck. Birds of Paradise, Wall of Blossoms, Armageddon, countermagic, some burn, other things I can’t recall. Then Exodus hit. Exodus has Oath of Druids. Oath of Druids is very good. So I start whipping up a list. Everything on this list I can explain, except the random Axelrod Gunnerson. Why did I include ol’ Axelrod? Maybe my one copy (Chronicles, of course) was yearning to be played? It’s not the worst resolve ever from an Oath of Druids. Big shout-out to Axelrod.

Things get weird.


If it was printed on a a 2.5-by-3.5-inch of cardboard, I played it. Netrunner, Star Wars, X-Files, Shadowfist: I couldn’t get enough. I can’t remember how to play any of these games. On the plus side, I now have a nearly limitless supply of coasters.

Finally, Magic.


This is what it looks like when you start going through your old box of cards. One false move when you put down your stack of Mirage commons and all your careful piles come tumbling down. Or, to be honest, after a few hours of abject frustration looking at Vision Charms, Crystal Veins, Siroccos, and the like, you might knock over your carefully placed stacks of Magic memorabilia and call it quits. Where the hell are my Force of Wills? Where are my Wastelands? I had a five-color green Tradewind Rider deck! Where are my Birds?!

It dawns on me that sometime in college I briefly reentered the game thanks to a slovenly roommate. I briefly played some Kamigawa block Limited, and all was well in the world. What kept me away from this game was the scourge that was Affinity: Arcbound Ravager, the cycle of artifact lands, Cranial Plating, Thoughtcast, Skullclamp, and Disciple of the Vault were at their most fearsome. It was enough to scare any player off. I skulked away, and (here comes the rub) gave away my cards to that slovenly roommate. I didn’t learn much in college.

Fortunately, looking at old Magic cards is a great pastime. Let’s be honest: Wizards had a great concept, but little to no idea what is was doing circa Ice Age, Homelands, and Chronicles. Absent a few hits, Wizards more often that not missed until Tempest. Looking through these cards hasn’t made me nostalgic; it’s made me appreciate the massive leaps forward Wizards has made in design and development. Seriously folks:


So there’s some djinn named Kookus. And if you don’t have his Keeper, he gets pissed. This is flavorful?


I have the feeling Anson Maddocks really needs to bust out a dictionary. This woman is literally lusting after some sort of bloody hulk of flesh. This is not at all what bloodlust means. On the plus side, we have one of the creepier cards ever.


This feels like one of the most quintessentially Rakdos cards ever printed, long before the Rakdos guild was a even a sparkle in Mark Rosewater’s eye. More importantly, we get a peek at art from one of Magic’s old mainstays: Richard Kane Ferguson. His surreal, colorful, inexplicable art captivated middle-school me. Also they’re all somehow psychosexual and disturbing.


For reasons now lost to time, Eron the Relentless was my favorite card in Magic. Now that I dug him out of the box and looked up his story on the MTGSalvation wiki, I love him even more: Eron “proclaimed himself King of the Goblins at Koskun Keep […] Eron was killed dozens of times, but continues to rule due to his immortality.” Useful feature. I’m also getting a distinct David Bowie in Labyrinth vibe here. Both were Goblin Kings, after all.


THIS ART. ON THIS ABSURD CARD. Drew Tucker’s vaguely Cubist art was a vast improvement over the other two versions of the card. In Fallen Empires, certain cards were printed with three different pictures. Check out the other cartoony versions. Then read this card. Then hope my mother can convince someone to buy it at her garage sale this weekend.


Finally. Money AND nostalgia. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Earthcraft runs about $15 on TCGPlayer, and it’s banned in Legacy. From here on out, if a card is worth something and is not used in any of the sanctioned DCI formats, I’m just going to blame Commander. Seems reasonable.

The gist of it: those Force of Wills, Wastelands, and the like never emerged; however, opening up this time vault from the mid-90s was a riot. There was a treasure trove of old card games, X-Men cards (that was the lone Juggernaut peeking out of the corner; these cards were so popular at my elementary school they were banned due to fights that broke out over them), old books, the original rulebook to Magic, and the following cards I’ve safely sleeved:

Beta Stone Rain
Mirage Wall of Roots
3X Necromancy
3X Retribution of the Meek
2X Winding Canyon
4X Worldly Tutor
4X Price of Progress
2X Natural Order
Mana Vault (4th Edition, sadly)
2X Nether Shadow
Animate Dead
Hymn to Tourach
3X Pyroblast (for your Legacy sideboards)
Intruder Alarm
Coffin Queen
Phelddagrif (Commander?)
Aura of Silence
Veteran Explorer (for Caleb Durnwald’s Legacy Nic Fit deck)
Mirage Dissipate (love that Richard Kane Ferguson art)
2X High Tide (Drew Tucker wins again)
2X Merchant Scroll (combo y’all)
3X Elephant Grass (this is some Legacy tech)


Maybe I’m making a mistake letting my mother dump the excess cards onto some poor sap who has cracked a few packs of Return to Ravnica. Don’t mistake me: I really doubt that one day Snow Devil, Ashnod’s Battle Gear, or Soldevi Heretic are going to be amazing Vintage tech, or that this lone copy of Desert from Arabian Nights is going to rise in value. I just don’t want these cards to make a novice Magic player jaded. Perhaps, though, that’s only my jaded self projecting that fear. Magic is often about discovery. More experienced players still anticipate new sets, new experiences, and new story lines; I imagine staring down at thousands of cards alien to a new player’s eyes must be similar. Hopefully, these cards will inspire that sort of wonder. Let’s be honest: How can a new player not be inspired by Hornet Cannon?

Sean Morse lives in Brooklyn and funds his Magic-playing by being at the beck and call of his students.

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