Last week I got the Emerald, which was my final piece of the nine-part puzzle. It was Alex, one of the players I met in Regensburg a year and a half ago, who first told me about the best part of completing the nine. Now that it's finally done, 20 years after I first heard about the cards, I must say his statement rings true. Strange as it may sound, it's actually pretty much of a relief to finally have them. Since I got my first Mox 5 years ago, I knew that I wanted to complete the set. I didn't know if I would be able to though, as my life could easily have taken turns that would have made me unable to afford the luxury of these cards.
So what is Power anyway? Is it the first nine restricted cards? The nine best cards? The most expensive cards today, or the most expensive cards from ABU that didn't get reprinted in 1994? There are lots of different explanations of why these particular cards are called the Power Nine, and a lot of ideas of why there are nine cards instead of ten (or eight, Timetwister unfortunately wont always get the love it deserves). Of the possible suggestions above, only one is surely true today. If you look for only the cheapest version of any card printed, the power cards are indeed the nine most expensive tournament legal cards in Magic. This was not true just a year ago though (when e.g. Mishra's Workshop was more expensive than Timetwister). Maybe a little more surprising; neither was it completely true in 1994. In August 1994, just after the release of The Dark, these were the top 10 most expensive cards (with average prices) according to Usenet:
1. Black Lotus ($39.53)
2. Forcefield ($32.84)
3. Gauntlet of Might ($30.20)
4. Mox Sapphire ($28.25)
5. Mox Ruby ($27.58)
6. Leviathan ($27.44)
7. Timetwister ($26.86)
8. Mox Pearl ($26.42)
9. Mox Emerald ($26.27)
10. Mox Jet ($24.65)
That price on Leviathan didn't live for long btw, and may be credited to hype for the new set. Nonetheless, quite a few cards from ABU appear on the list before Time Walk (#16) and Ancestral Recall (#22), including Chaos Orb (#12) and Lich (#15). Many people (and stores) would still consider Time Walk a more valuable card than Lich even in 1994, but two other cards stand out here. These two cards are Forcefield and Gauntlet of Might. These artifacts are among the most expensive cards in any price guide from the early days, and they are almost always more expensive than the blue power cards. Why then, do we have a Power Nine with three blue cards, rather than a Power Eight of artifacts which anyone could play with? (Ok, Gauntlet may be bad in a monowhite deck).
|Three of the many suggestions for the "tenth power card"|
Could it be because they had a mythical quality like no other cards ever had? Sure, there were players drooling after Elder Dragon Legends and Liches, but the Power cards were, in all their simplicity, the cards that made players into champions. They were incredibly scarce (I didn't even see a real Power card until 1996), very simple in design, and did basic things better than any other cards available. In the times before "tempo" or "card advantage" had been explored, the P9 defined these core concepts. They all break fundamental rules of the game; play one land a turn, draw one card a turn, take one turn at a time. Most players couldn't really grasp exactly why a mox would be better than a Shivan Dragon, but championships were won by players with the rare moxen, not players with Shivan. It didn't take long before eight of the power cards were hands-down the most expensive cards in the game, and since then they have topped the list for almost 20 years.
|Some of the newer cards puts up a good fight powerwise though ;)|
All these things; the history, playability, scarcity, and monetary value combines to something else though, something less tangible. Odd and selfish as it may sound, the best thing with owning full power, is that you own full power. The puzzle is complete. If you are trying to complete your set yourself, I wish you the best of luck on your journey. You will enjoy it.