måndag 25 augusti 2014

To the Nines

The best thing with owning full power, is that you own full power.

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"
So it wasn't only a price issue, nor simply a reprint issue (neither Forcefield nor Gauntlet were reprinted in Revised). Is it that these cards are the very best cards in the game then? Well, in early 1994 you had cards like Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor and Library of Alexandria which were at the same level of "broken". Best rare cards in ABU? Maybe, but e.g. Mind Twist was as powerful as most cards in P9, and Time Vault was actually banned back in 1994. So why are these particular nine cards Power?

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 ;)
And after all, they pretty much are the most powerful cards ever printed. A couple of years back, Startcitygames posted a well researched list of the 100 best cards in modern Vintage. Top 3 is still Lotus, Ancestral and Time Walk. These cards definitely live up to their reputation.

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.

13 kommentarer:

  1. Great read. Congrats to completing the P9!

  2. I own two power cards: the cheapest one and the most expensive one :) One of these days I'll buy my first Mox...

  3. Something is wrong with that Emerald. And Pearl.


    1. Yes, they're proxies :P

  4. @Custer: Thanks a lot! Always very appreciated to get positive feedback :)

    @feddyvis: Nice! Good luck on the mox hunt!

    @Rolex: I expected someone would say that ;) I've actually finalized the deal to trade up the Pearl to a beta one a few weeks back, but the Emerald will probably stay whitebordered for the foreseeable future. If I find a beta emerald without having to give up the unl one in the process, I'll be sure to let you know :)

  5. "6. Leviathan ($27.44)" I remember when my father (who's also a Magic player) came home with a Leviathan for me, he payed 150 SEK for it back then! haha. Bings back fun memories. :)


    1. Haha, sweet. I only paid 70 SEK for my Polar Kraken in 1995 ;)

  6. I enjoy reading your blog. Congrats, I am still missing lotus and jet to get a complete Beta P9 set. I am willing to sacrifice my 4 Alpha duals in the process, but so far no luck...
    Just to be a little picky: The Tabernacle is worth more than the Timetwister. It is a bit surprising, it does not even appear in the the list of "100 best cards" you refer to. I guess it is an effective hoser against White Weenie and other creature based decks.

    1. Thanks!
      You are absolutely correct about the tabernacle (and Imperial Seal for that matter) if you go for the English versions. However, if you only go for the cheapest available version (i.e. Italian tabernacle and Chinese seal), I think TT wins out by a small amount.

  7. Soon you will be a man, my son.

  8. I really enjoy your articles, and I've just recently created a subreddit for 93/94 magic: http://www.reddit.com/r/oldschoolmtg/ . Would love for you and your readers to post there. I feel a reddit page could be a really great forum to help 93/94 get more interest. "Mg", please feel free to contact me there if you'd like to be a moderator.

    Thanks for the great blog, and keep the posts coming!

    1. Thanks! I'll be sure to check it out.

  9. Really enjoyable article MG! Keep up the good work :-)