MTG: Throwback Night 1


So, you may have noticed, I have been on quite a Magic: The Gathering kick lately. Playing a game from my youth has, I think, been very good for me. I especially enjoy play testing my decks when I am stuck on a problem at work or on a personal project. It seems to help get all my brain cells re-aligned.

This got me thinking to when I first started Magic and how the person I play with most is only familiar with the game in it's current state. After checking prices on starters and boosters from the era's I was playing I threw out the idea for a throwback night. We would each get a Starter deck and some boosters and try to make a 60 card deck from them for the first game. The second game we would pool our cards and do a draft. The idea was popular enough that only a week after suggesting it I was ordering cards.

I started playing in 5th grade which was back in 1995 and 4th edition had recently been released. My next door neighbor got me started playing when he split some cards his brother gave him with me. At that point all of the earliest card sets were already the stuff of legends. It seemed like such an infinite amount of time had passed between the releases of Alpha through Legends that the truly old cards were nearly unobtainable. The Dark was the "affordable legendary" at the time with most of the cards in circulation in our group of players being mostly from 4th and Fallen Empires with the occasional Revised edition showing up from time to time. If you are lost you can reference the set histories here.

When I decided to do throwback nights I decided to do it in bundled sets that I was playing at certain times. With that being my idea, I decided that the first throwback would be 4th edition with some Fallen Empires and The Dark.

I never actually bought any Fallen Empires boosters so this was pretty fun for me. I was 11 at the time and my monthly allowance was around $10 which was usually allocated for Weird Al tapes (I still have "Off the Deep End", "Alapalooza", and "The Food Album" running around at my parents house).

I never saw these either, but I remember going over the old newsprint editions of Troll and Toad and wishing I could afford to get a set of Preachers and Exorcists (I was not an atheist yet and still into the whole good v evil thing).

Now these were the first boosters I was familiar with. I will never forget that Christmas where, after a lengthy discussion with my father, I was able to convince my parents to let me play in earnest and I got a starter and a few boosters. It is amazing what kids can accomplish when they set their minds to something. I remember outlining a 12 point presentation on why I should be allowed to play and the restrictions that I would be willing to play under should they agree to let me do so. I recall that I was only allowed to play white and green (as they seemed "good") and I was to trade away all other cards for those colors which lead me to some early, painful in retrospect, ripoffs.

Ah the old starter boxes. A bunch of nearly completely random cards and an assortment of land and a booklet of rules. It was almost impossible to start playing the game with just this, but that is what you got. (Pictured again for the sans wrapper look.)

Unwrapping the packs was a lot of fun. It was really interesting to do with someone who never played the game prior to the color coding of commons, uncommons, rares, and mythics which didn't even exist. We got a fairly decent spread and set to making our decks. It was painful for me, nearly unbearable for my compatriot, whose benefit I was doing this for. The first game was slow, as most old games were, and I just barely pulled off a win. Nothing fancy, it was just an old fashioned hitting each other with creatures and the occasional spell until one of us was dead.

The second game went much faster. I managed to put together a passable red/black/artifact goblin and undead deck with some burn while my partner in this endeavor went with green/blue/white weenie and life gain. It was a pretty good match, but I won out in the end with an Inferno.

After the game it was interesting to discuss what my opponent liked and disliked about playing the set in it's earlier form. "How did you guys play this?" and "It's really hard to put something decent together." were two stand out statements that gave me a chuckle. I remembered pouring over card lists and putting together dream decks, that at the time I could never achieve. It's silly looking back on it but people were really, really secretive about their decks back then. If you thought you had a good thing going you kept it a secret until you unleashed it on someone. It wasn't until later, at least for my group, that people started to throw around deck ideas and possible combos.

A real highlight of the night was when an Ivory Tower got pulled. It isn't a very remarkable card by today's standards, but paired with a Library of Leng it was a cornerstone of early life gaining decks. It was a card I wanted for the longest time and was never able to get. Since just about everyone I played with played Black and Red most cards like this were traded out by the older players before they trickled down to us beginners. I recall playing with a lot of cheap white knights and big green creatures. It was funny after all these years that I would finally get an Ivory Tower. The best part of the night, however, was when my gracious opponent asked when the next throw back night would be. I could feel a cold gleam form in my eye, because the next set we would be playing was when I really started to get into Magic, Ice Age. Stay tuned.

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