A gentleman mostly known as Paddan, now a pillar of the Stockholm community, was one of those first mages to gather in the outskirts of Gothenburg almost a quarter of a century ago. Today it is my great pleasure to hand over the proverbial soap box to him. This is Paddan's tribute to the 25th anniversary of an expanding universe. Enjoy! /Mg out
If you were into fantasy, cyberpunk or horror in the early '90s in Sweden, you were pretty much guaranteed to also have an interest in role-playing. Growing up in Mölndal (Gothenburg) the games were readily available in both toy stores and specialized outlets such as Tradition, but me and my best friend didn't know anyone our age that was really interested in playing. My only guess is that it must have been via the gaming store were I was buying Mithril Miniatures, but we somehow managed to get an address to a role-playing club located at Ringön: Storyteller's Inn. Hopefully we would find someone there that was willing to take on two young and eager adventurers.
Setting things into perspective, the industrial area Ringön is not the first place a parent would pick to send their teenager for engaging in some obscure activity they don't quite understand in the first place, but being 15 at the time we were also old enough to enjoy some freedom. Having secured the ride, we would finally be able to freely roam i strange realms, fighting hideous beasts, and perhaps even get a glimpse of something beyond.
Much to our surprise, not many people at Storyteller's Inn appeared to be that interested in role-playing upon our arrival. Instead, everyone was fiddling around with some kind of card game, and it seemed to us that other activities had taken a back seat for the time being. Our kind hosts were nevertheless more than happy to show us the game, and it didn't take many minutes for us to realise that we definitely needed some of those spell cards as well! It wasn't just the person collecting Plague Rats that was crazy about the game, although I later learned that he was a Malkavian.
Memory is a fickle thing, and even though the Plague Rats guy is a common old school trope nowadays, it's one of the things that I am sure of. I also know that my first Magic purchase was two Unlimited starter decks together with a few packs of Antiquities, provided by the friendly people at Spel & Sånt. Some members of the staff were also frequenting Storyteller's Inn and Spel & Sånt quickly became our favorite store, later providing me with both Legends and The Dark booster packs which I pre-ordered in very modest quantities. The CCG craze* wasn't quite omnipresent yet, and buying a few packs for flavour was enough for a casual player like me.
|Dawn of the black hearts in Mölndal.|
As time progressed, I nevertheless got more and more immersed and ended up with a more or less complete set of Revised in addition to the older cards, Lich being a favourite. Being a black wizard at heart, I had a somewhat competitive deck by kitchen table standards, with Hypnotic Specters, Sengir Vampires, Hymns to Tourach and Terrors, together with some duals for Counterspells and Lightning Bolts. There was also room for a few Mishra's Factories and I eventually managed to get my hands on a single copy of Juzám Djinn, so the pile was not completely unlike my deck of choice in old school nowadays.
|4C Mono Black. Greed sans Greed.|
|Top 3 artists in old school.|
There is however one grin that beats them all, and it's owner is eyeing you from the most fabled expansion. Juzám Djinn is arguably not only the most iconic summoning in Magic, the awe any card from Arabian Nights ignited during the very early days was unparalleled. There was rumor that two boxes of Arabian Nights had arrived at a small store somewhere in the northern part of Sweden, but I will continue to regard that as an urban legend until I meet someone that actually bought a booster. Basically, the only widely available information in the beginning was a list of card titles and a few images from Duelist and Scrye magazines.
|Duelist #1 was not available in Sweden as far as I know, but #3 was invaluable for checking the rarity of Jyhad. Good times with Drew Tucker.|
I was certainly not alone in my desire for Arabian Nights, and examining early price lists is quite telling. Ali from Cairo, City in a Bottle, Diamond Valley, Guardian Beast, Jihad and Ring of Ma'rûf were just as valuable as a USD 10 unlimited Black Lotus in an April 1994 price list in the rec.games.deckmaster Usenet group. One month later, in a post aggregating the data from over 18000 price listings, the mean price of Jihad (USD 15) even surpasses that of a Black Lotus (USD 13), with Guardian Beast (USD 11) coming in at fourth place just behind Gauntlet of Might (USD 12). Another Arabian Nights chase card at the time, Ali from Cairo (USD 9), beats all of the moxen except Pearl (USD 10).†
I'm an average player at best (and an embarrassing player at worst as evident on the n00bcon 55 stream), but I pretty much always enjoy playing just for the sake of it, regardless of outcome. Magic is most of all a relaxing activity for me and there are enough nuts for me to crack elsewhere in life. Having had the luxury of building a more or less ultimate version of my old kitchen table deck, I have been longing to create something that I could only have dreamt of in 1994. My Project M of sorts.
Basing a new deck on pure nostalgia is a somewhat challenging task when the deck you're already playing is striking that very nerv. I wanted the deck to feel like it would have been unthinkable 25 years ago, as well as having it cater to my vanity by being different to most 93/94 decks out there. It turned out that I had to at least abandon the unthinkable. After all, playing an Arabian Nights only deck is sort of how things were originally meant to be.
Diamond Valley is the deck's luxury item, included mainly due to it being one of the most sought after cards during the early days. It's nevertheless not without merit since the deck can be quite life taxing. I believe the presence of a king, a flying carpet and sandals need no motivation in One Thousand and One Nights, so the main sideboard cards of note are Stone-Throwing Devils against Savannah Lions and Sorceress Queen for increased fun. Finally, Dandân would have been a better choice than Fishliver Oil but I didn't have them at the time.
While I had been kicking around the idea of my all Arabian Nights deck for a while, I must credit Mg for unknowingly pushing me to acquire the final cards. As some of you might remember, I had the fortune of receiving an Easter egg with an Arabian Nights booster at n00bcon this year. Having opened all the other early expansions, cracking an Arabian Nights booster pack almost 25 years down the road is a pretty insane experience, and I must admit that I didn't quite realize the extent of the madness until i checked the price of a pack afterwards. I can only say that I am humbled by the remarkable generosity Magnus is showing the community. Here's for another 25 years!
* Ten years after the release of Magic, the CCG craze had given rise to more than 130 different collectible card games, as listed in the second edition of the Scrye Collectible Card Game Checklist & Price Guide (688 pages in total). One can not help but feel sorry for Garfield:
"If the market becomes flooded with trading card games of various and sundry quality as a result of Magic, I'll be disappointed"
- Richard Garfield, Duelist #1, p 13
† Top 20 mean prices for Magic cards in the May 1994 Comprehensive Magic Card Price List at rec.games.deckmaster:
Jihad, USD 14.93
Black Lotus, USD 13.24
Gauntlet of Might, USD 11.63
Guardian Beast, USD 11.47
Time Twister, USD 10.00
Forcefield, USD 9.98
Word of Command, USD 9.98
Mox Pearl, USD 9.68
Ancestral Recall, USD 9.22
Force of Nature, USD 9.17
Ali From Cairo, USD 8.97
Mox Ruby, USD 8.57
Two-Headed Giant of Foriys, USD 8.53
Mox Sapphire, USD 8.40
Shivan Dragon, USD 8.26
Vesuvan Doppelganger, USD 8.02
Mox Jet, USD 8.00
Time Walk, USD 7.66
Cyclopean Tomb, USD 7.58
Library of Alexandria, USD 7.19
Bonus: Mox Emerald, USD 6.61 (31st place)
I went through a bunch of old magazines when writing the above, trying to gather some statistics concerning early Arabian Nights prices. In the end, data was too sparse and/or scattershot to really yield anything interesting, but I'm leaving a bit of it here in case someone finds it amusing.
Scrye was the first magazine to feature a price guide and issue #1 released in June 1994 gives a USD 250 median price for a complete Arabian Nights set, the most valuable spell being the USD 15 Eye for an Eye with no other card reaching double digits. The rise of the median value of Library of Alexandria from USD 5 to USD 7 in Scrye issue #3 is however not completely representative for prices about four months later:
"Card Price Hyper-Inflation …
The Arabian box price is disturbing … It has been my experience that you can make a full set of Arabian Nights by opening one box, however, at USD 1500 a box, this would be a very expensive set. The price of a full set of Arabian Nights is lagging significantly behind the box cost. A month ago a full set of Arabian Nights could be purchased for USD 200. Today it would sell for around USD 475."
- Scrye issue #3, p 17
The magazine itself now lists a USD 390 median price for a complete set. When the InQuest Premier Issue (#0, the second magazine to feature a price guide) hit the streets about six months later in April 1995, the mean value of a set was listed as USD 740.
The first magazine in Sweden to feature a price guide was Centurion with its inaugural issue in July 1995. Gentleman Svante Landgraf kindly provided me with some scans from his magazine collection. Below is a plot of prices for a few notable Arabian Nights cards as listed in early issues of Scrye, InQuest, and Centurion. The main notable feature is that cards appear to be considerably more expensive in Sweden in July 1995. With the exception of Juzám Djinn and Library of Alexandria, prices have nevertheless dropped a few months later. In December 1995, Ali From Cairo and Guardian Beast are no longer running the show.